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Palace: Remark on arming civilians vs terrorists just 'a dramatization'

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 4/20/2017 Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang clarified Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte's statement about arming civilians against terrorists and drug addicts is not yet an official policy.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the president's was a "dramatization" of the need to beef up security in Bohol, where Abu Sayyaf members launched an attack that left five alleged bandits, three soldiers and a policeman dead.

"I think the statement was about Bohol 'no, but in a sense it was a dramatization of making sure that security is raised up in the area," Abella said in a press briefing.

"It's not a policy direction, okay. It's not a policy... There's no paper to support that. But what I'm saying is that this is his intention to raise security," he added.

Duterte has issued several off-the-cuff remarks that his officials would later on clarify or interpret. They include his supposed declaration of separation from the US, a pronouncement that his officials said was an emphasis on the need for an independent foreign policy; and his readiness to send troops to the Middle East, which was regarded as a mere reiteration of defense ties.

Abella previously advised journalists to use their "creative imagination" when covering the president and to take his words seriously but not literally.

Abella said Duterte's remarks should not be interpreted as giving firearms to every household.

"I'm assuming that part of the civil defense will be, the ante would be pushed up," he said.

"Let's put it this way. The president, he has a way of underlining what he wants to do, okay?"

P1-million bounty for Abu Sayyaf members

On Wednesday, Duterte offered P1 million bounty for each Abu Sayyaf bandit behind the April 11 attack in Inabanga, Bohol and announced plans to arm civilians against terrorists and drug lords.

Government troops sent to combat members of the Abu Sayyaf in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town in Bohol. The Freeman, Jay Rommel Labra © Government troops sent to combat members of the Abu Sayyaf in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town in Bohol. The Freeman, Jay Rommel Labra

"My order to the police and to everyone and even to the civilians...they should do fight and kill. My order is dead or alive. If there are six (bandits), maybe scouring the safety nets, wherever they can land, I have P1 million offer per person," the president said. 

"I intend to also arm the civilians. And I will include the civilians. Kapag nakapatay ka na (if you kill somebody) just go to the police and make the report and state your truth. Walang problema (there is no problem), I will take care of you. And pardon you for whatever (case)," he added.

Asked if Malacañang would implement a national ID system to track down terrorist activity, Abella said: "That seems to be the general tendency, the general direction, yes."

Abella later on clarified that the national ID system is not yet included in the priority measures of the administration.  

"(The president) is open to the idea of a national ID system but at the moment it is not included in his legislative priority agenda," he said. 

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