PAMPANGA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, June 12, revealed his intent to arm village chairmen to enable them to help the national government curb the spate of crime and proliferation of narcotics in the country.
In a speech delivered here in Clark, Pampanga, Duterte said he might allow village chairmen to carry guns as long as they are willing to support his crackdown on illegal drugs and criminality.
"I might consider arming you. If I think in my assessment and evaluation -- and I will ask the police and the intelligence community -- if you are really into it, (wanting to help me combat) crime, I will support you. I might grant you possession (of weapons) and to carry your firearms," the President told the newly-elected village chairmen of Central Luzon.
"If I see that you are really fighting (illegal drugs and criminality), you do not only have the Philippine National Police, the military, but (also) me and the (Local Government) secretary will see you through. I will not leave you alone. And if you are at risk, I will help you, remember that," he added.
Duterte made the commitment, even though he had previously raised worry that 40 percent of the country's villages are contaminated with illegal drugs.
It could be recalled that the President had postponed twice the conduct of the village and youth council elections for fear that those who would be elected have links to drug syndicates.
The twin polls were held last May 14, after Congress failed to submit to Duterte a measure seeking its deferment.
In April, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency divulged that around 207 former village officials -- 90 of whom were village captains and the remaining 117 were village councilors -- were involved in the illicit drugs trade.
In his latest speech, Duterte appealed to the newly-elected village officials to "set aside personal interests" so as they will be able to fulfill their mandate to serve their respective villages.
"Let us set aside our personal interests as we selflessly and tirelessly fulfill the duties and responsibilities that come with our positions. We owe it to the Filipino people to serve with humility and live with integrity," he said.
"Our fight against criminality, corruption and illegal drugs continues," the Chief Executive added.
He also called on them to ensure the implementation of the anti-illegal drug efforts, such as the establishment and operation of the anti-drug abuse council in respective villages.
The President also pledged to help the village executives who will be embroiled in controversies just because they are "lawfully" performing their duties.
"Remember this, if you are facing challenges and there's a case filed against you and you think you are in the performance of your duty as village [officials] and you kill or hurt someone, do not be afraid. Just tell me, do not be afraid to seek my help," he said.
"Just tell me the truth. You will have no problem. Then, I will back you up," Duterte added. (SunStar Philippines)