PNP justifies arming of civilians

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PHILIPPINE National Police chief Director General Avelino I. Razon Jr. yesterday said civilian auxiliaries who will be trained and armed by the police will not participate in manhunt operations against Moro Islamic Liberation Front renegades in Mindanao but instead will be involved in mere peacekeeping and law enforcement jobs.

Razon emphasized that the civilian volunteers who will be armed with shotguns after passing a police training will not join the assault against the MILF but will form groups that will help police and the military protect their villages from armed intrusions.

He made the clarification after reports that the PNP will be sending at least 1,000 shotguns in conflict-afflicted areas in Mindanao was taken as a signal of the government’s “all-out war” against the MILF.

However, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Nicanor A. Bartolome said that only shotguns, not high-powered weapons like M-16 and M-14 automatic rifles, will only be issued to police auxiliaries who have passed rigorous training by the police.

The police auxiliary units will be under the supervision of local government units although they won’t be allowed to carry their shotguns outside of their communities.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo V. Puno earlier ordered the PNP and the Armed Forces to disarm civilian volunteers who have started brandishing their weapons in public in different parts of North Cotabato following the spate of MILF atrocities that displaced thousands of villagers.

Puno said an individual can only carry his firearm outside of his house if he has been issued a permit to carry firearm outside of residence by the chief of the PNP.

The presence of several persons claiming to be members of the “Ilaga”, a group of Christian vigilantes who battled Muslim rebels toe to toe during the 70s, is also being investigated by the PNP which maintained that the law must be enforced at all times.

In Metro Manila, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Geary L. Barias said they remained under full alert in the wake of threats posed by the MILF and other sympathetic forces to sow trouble in the metropolis.

Barias said he has ordered all five NCRPO district directors, chiefs of police and station commanders to intensify security in all vital installations, economic key points and places of convergence in Metro Manila.

Barias on Wednesday met with Muslim leaders in the metropolis to seek their cooperation in the government’s anti-crime and anti-terror drive and assure them that there will be no “witch-hunt” in different Muslim communities in Metro Manila.

Muslim leaders from Culiat, Quezon City; Quiapo, Manila, and Maharlika Village in Taguig earlier expressed fears that the ongoing conflict in Mindanao would again prompt authorities to raid their communities in search for “terrorists.”

Barias assured the Muslim leaders that they have nothing to worry about as long as they cooperate with authorities and see to it that that their communities won’t be used as a sanctuary by rebels and terrorists fleeing military operations in the South.