Senate rejects proposal allowing BFP personnel to carry firearms during fire emergencies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — The Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would authorize Bureau of Fire Protection personnel to carry short firearms during fire emergencies.

Thirteen senators voted against the proposed amendment to Senate Bill 1832, which seeks to modernize the BFP. Four senators voted in favor of the proposal while two abstained.

The amendment proposed by Senator Bong Go states that the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police shall provide training on proper handling of short firearms.

Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa—the sponsor of the bill—said the proposal was "borne out of request coming from Malacanang, from the President."

"His intention was to arm the Bureau of Fire Protection personnel with short firearms. He wanted to make these personnel available to support the law enforcement operations of the PNP and the AFP," the former police chief said during the Senate's plenary session.

Dela Rosa added that armed firemen could possibly act as substitutes to policemen.

"Darating yung panahon that magshi-shift ng focus ang ating military, from counter insurgency to external threat (The time will come when the military will shift its focus from counter insurgency to external threat)...and the problem of insurgency will be created as a law enforcement problem and shall be transferred to PNP," he said.

"Kung masayadong occupied ang ating PNP, hihingi sila ng suporta sa Bureau of Fire [Protection] na sila muna ang mag-man sa mga police station, kalsada."

[Translation: If the PNP is already occupied with tasks, they can ask for the assistance of Bureau of Fire Protection if they can man the police station and the roads for the meantime.]

Dela Rosa added that the firearms would also serve as protection for firemen.

Senator Grace Poe, however, said carrying firearms is not part of firemen's job.

"Hindi po 'yun ang intensyon ng kanilang trabaho. Hindi po 'yan ang kanilang mandato. Dagdagan ninyo ang PNP na pwedeng makipagsapalaran sa mga pangangailangan nating domestic na mga hamon," she said.

[Translation: That's not the intention of their job. That's not part of their mandate. You should increase the number of people in the PNP who can work on the domestic challenges we are facing.]

For Senator Panfilo Lacson—a former PNP chief himself—the proposed amendment is not necessary as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act already provides that any individual can apply for firearm ownership.

"So any fireman can qualify if he so applies...It's redundant because there is already an existing law that covers that," he said.

The Senate has approved the proposed BFP Modernization Act of 2020 on second reading.