"This proposal should not become the very evil it is supposed to prevent."
There is no doubt that civilian participation is essential in maintaining peace and order. Law enforcement agencies have long benefited from capable and hyper-vigilant citizens who have reported crimes or sent anonymous tips. Some civilians even see it through the end of police operations.
Often, though, these civilian contributions are unheard of and are rarely reported by the media due to fear of retaliation. I surmise this apprehension to report criminal activity, plus the aim to prevent further fatalities among informants and civilians prompted President Duterte to revive his bid to arm anti-crime civilian organizations.
There are only three countries in the world which are reportedly allowing their civilians to bear arms. The United States is one of them. As can be seen in the news, there are several reports of gun violence and school shootings by civilians. With such reports, the pronouncement of the President understandably raises fears among the public.
The primary purpose of the proposal is to ensure civilian protection. We hear of news reports left and right wherein citizens became casualties in shootouts or buy-bust operations. However, as reasonably expected, the proposal is being met with strong resistance due to talks of possible abuse and emergence of more crimes. Understandably, there are accompanying risks to the proposed policy. The concerns of the public are undeniably valid and relevant.
While the ultimate intent of the policy is to promote peace and order, we need to weigh the risks vis-a-vis the benefits. In order to successfully implement this policy, the Executive cannot turn a blind eye to the apprehensions of the people.
There must be rigid measures in place. For one, the selection of civilians who will be armed should be extremely stringent. Volunteers to be “armed” should only be recruited from a strictly limited pool – be it from reservists, retirees, or from a meaningful number of individuals who are vouched for by members of the community for their capability, credibility, and commitment to service. It is imperative that these volunteers undergo a thorough assessment of their mental, emotional, and physical well-being to evaluate and determine whether he or she can carry out the civilian duty to protect the public.
Authorities must enforce rigorous measures in the recruitment, screening, and training prior to civilian volunteers being “armed and deployed.” The issuance of firearms should still follow the strict requirements of the law.
More importantly, in order to protect innocent lives and those who are merely suspected of crimes, the civilians should not be granted exemption from criminal liability under the law, except for valid use of self-defense. This is to deter these volunteers from using the privilege of bearing arms for illegal purposes.
These civilians should not be any different from us. All of us, armed or unarmed, are imposed with the duty to maintain peace and order. Hence, there is no reason to give special treatment to these civilians under the law.
There is more to this proposal that the public can agree (nor disagree) upon. The idea of arming anti-crime citizens is worth exploring. However, strict safety standards under the law should be in place so that it will not itself become the very evil it is supposed to prevent.