MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte got a resounding “no!” from former press secretaries and some members of his staff when he asked if they were amenable to having civilians bear arms to shoot drug suspects.
During the inauguration yesterday of the newly renovated press briefing area at Malacañang, the Chief Executive also underscored the vital role of media to enable the government to reach out to the people, despite his constant attacks on members of the so-called fourth estate, whom he accused of being biased against him since the presidential elections last year.
In the middle of his speech, Duterte remarked that he would allow civilians to bear arms to help the government in the fight against drugs.
He then asked the audience composed of former presidential spokesman Adolfo Azcuna, former press secretary Hector Villanueva and the Malacañang Press Corps if they would agree to a proposal to bear arms. “Ang utos ko, lahat na lang ng mga civilian, bigyan nila ng armas (My order is that all civilians be given arms). Kayo na ang makipag-away sa mga durugista (You yourselves fight the druggies) because I need the soldiers in another front,” he said.
“Each citizen is now given the right to bear arms just like in America and shoot the drug people. Would that be all right with you?” Duterte asked.
“No!” they chorused.
When the President asked again, the audience repeated that they are against the bearing of firearms.
“Ayaw ninyo (Don’t you want)?” he said, to which the crowd replied, “Ayaw (We don’t want).”
This prompted Duterte to get serious, asking Special Assistant to the President Bong Go to hand him his memorandum wherein he ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the drug campaign, leaving the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies out of the equation.
Duterte was pleased to know that the audience has been proper in discerning his actions related to the designation of PDEA as having a lead role in the drug campaign.
“Is this good?” he asked the crowd after reading the memorandum. To the President’s delight, the audience responded: “Yes!”
“Bright talaga kayo (You’re all really bright). Well, tingnan natin (let’s see). PDEA lang, wala nang iba (Only PDEA, nothing else). And I will reiterate, umalis kayong lahat (all of you, leave). Ibigay ninyo sa (Give it to) PDEA and let us see what happens,” he said. Duterte raised the question before some Cabinet officials composed of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Go, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.