Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III expressed disappointment over the plan of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to use its P45 million savings to procure 2,282 firearms for its firemen in 146 cities and 17 regional offices.
During the Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed 2023 budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and its attached agencies, Pimentel was informed by BFP chief Louie Puracan that they have requested the Department of Budget and Management to allow them to use the BFP savings to buy firearms.
The savings, he said, came from the fund intended for the purchase of new firetrucks.
“So the policy question is, three more firetrucks or 2,000 plus firearms?” asked Pimentel. “I think for the BFP that should be a no-brainer because you know what you are supposed to do,” he said.
In the same hearing, Sen. JV Ejercito asked the BFP to prioritize the distribution of firetrucks to municipalities that still do not have fire stations and fire trucks.
He noted that there are cities and first-class municipalities that still receive new fire trucks from BFP even if they can afford to purchase their own trucks.
“As you mentioned, there are 203 municipalities that do not have fire stations and fire trucks, so that has to be prioritized,” Ejercito said. “Again, cities and first and second-class municipalities can take care of themselves and equip themselves,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Robin Padilla’s move to regionalize jails to uphold the rights of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) gained support from the DILG as this will uphold the rights of PDLs who have yet to be convicted by the courts.
DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said regionalization will solve many problems involving PDLs, including addressing the problem of overcrowding and visitations by loved ones.
“It will solve a lot of things if this is regionalized. Visitation is important for rehab therapy. I believe in this and we will support it,” Abalos said.
Before this, Padilla said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla also voiced support for this, and that he will coordinate with the LGUs to pursue this to address the congestion in jails.
Earlier, Padilla filed Senate Bill 235 to regionalize the New Bilibid Prison and other penal farms nationwide, to address overcrowding, and to allow visitations for inmates by their loved ones.
The BJMP assured Padilla they respect the rights of PDLs of different faiths, including ensuring they are not served pork, which is forbidden among Muslims.
The BJMP is also studying allowing face-to-face visitations for PDLs without risking Covid infections.