"Why give firemen extra work for which they have not been trained?"
I really hope President Duterte’s recent statement that he is thinking of giving firearms to firemen so they can help in curbing criminality and maintaining peace and order in communities is half-serious, and uttered in a moment of levity, perhaps a mere knee-jerk reaction to the perceived rise in crime incidents throughout the country.
The basic rationale for the proposal, as interpreted by the Philippine National Police and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is to allow firemen to defend themselves whenever their security is threatened in an emergency situation.
But Duterte’s proposal apparently goes beyond self-defense. He wants firemen, when not responding to a fire alarm, to tag along with the police in, say, so-called ‘buy-bust’ operations. Here’s what he actually said: “Pa-issuehan ko kayo ng baril, kayong mga bumbero. Pagkatapos ng tubig, tao naman ang hanapin ninyo.” (I will see to it that you are issued firearms. After looking for water, you can run after people.”)
For one thing, I cannot imagine our already overworked and underpaid firemen holding a firehose on one hand and a Glock 9 mm. pistol on the other while they go about their mission, which is to save lives and property. Firemen bearing firearms amid the helter-skelter in a fire emergency could exacerbate an already tense situation and create more pandemonium.
Isn’t it enough that during a fire emergency, the police are automatically deployed by headquarters to help maintain peace and order?
Firefighting, I would imagine, is a science that needs to be learned through proper training and adequate modern equipment.
Our firemen should be given all available means to do their task of firefighting instead of diffusing their energy and efforts elsewhere, such as being made to join anti-crime operations, for which they have not had any training nor perhaps the inclination because their basic task is to save lives.
Self-defense against unruly fire victims should be the least of the worries of firemen as they should be more concerned with rescuing fire victims and keeping themselves safe amid a real life-and-death situation in a fire emergency.
Unwittingly, Duterte is saying that he is tapping even firemen in the anti-crime drive because the best efforts of the Philippine National Police in peacekeeping have been less than adequate, and therefore they need back-up support from another unit in the DILG. But we must remember that the police can already tap hundreds of thousands of barangay tanods and private security guards in fighting crime. So why give firemen extra work for which they have not been trained?
QC should be next model of urban redevelopment
After Manila Mayor Isko Moreno hit the ground running in just his first week in office and cleaned up Quiapo, Divisoria and other business districts of illegal vendors and traffic obstructions, other Metro Manila mayors agreed to launch a Metro-wide clean-up drive, with the DILG even threatening to impose sanctions on local officials who fail to do their part.
In Quezon City where I reside, the local government faces the awesome challenge of responding decisively to urban sprawl.
In Barangay South Triangle, for instance, a middle-class community where real estate prices have reached stratospheric heights in recent years, you can still see clusters of shanties of informal settlers who have apparently taken over private property. Right in front of the barangay office along Scout Bayoran, in fact, the sidewalk has totally disappeared, taken over by residents of an urban poor community who decided to extend the property line just inches from the road itself.
Not far away, the old Kamuning public market remains decrepit and dark, even as the barangay has built a new office at the back of the compound. A few years ago, the market facade was improved somewhat, but residents must navigate the dark and dreary interior, with apparently no effort on the part of the market administrator to undertake much-needed repairs.
It appears that newly minted Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte has begun inspection tours and dialogues with her constituents in various areas in the city aimed at addressing the city’s problems, including traffic congestion, flooding, garbage disposal, crime, and so on. We just hope that she would be as tireless and visible as Mayor Isko in Manila, and be able to rally support for an honest-to-goodness cleanup campaign as well as social development programs to solve longstanding problems that pose obstacles to a truly livable metropolis.