Arming BFP personnel with guns inconsistent with duty to kill fire – CHR
MANILA, Philippines — Proposals to equip Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel with guns are simply not in harmony with their responsibility to put out fires, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Friday.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said they understand the concerns about the safety and welfare of firefighters while they carry out their duties, but they are also wary about firearms adding to the tension within the community during fire incidents.
“The mandate of the Bureau of Fire Protection is to prevent and suppress all destructive fires towards saving lives and properties. The inclusion of a provision in the BFP Modernization Bill authorizing more than 2,000 firefighters to carry guns is tangential to this role,” De Guia said.
“The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) shares the concern of the proponents […] However, in extremely tense situations, such as a fire in communities, bearing arms might cause more harm than good. In most scenarios, panic and commotion ensue because people are fighting to have their homes and properties prioritized by firefighters,” she explained.
The CHR also noted that firemen carrying guns would not make them more efficient, emphasizing that additional fire trucks, boosting the workforce, improving or building more fire stations, and providing other fire-extinguishing equipment would.
“Arming firemen will not contain fires nor can it enhance the efficiency of the firefighters’ performance of their duties and functions. However, such challenges can be addressed by using the budget for the purchasing of guns to buy more firetrucks, hire more firemen, and build more fire stations to respond adequately to residential and non-residential fires,” De Guia said.
“If there are sufficient firetrucks and firefighters, civilians during a fire will not fight over to grab the water hoses to contain the fire in their houses and properties,” she added.
Last August 4, the bill that would modernize the BFP, which includes the arming of firefighters, was ratified by Congress, which means it is awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature for it to become a law.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the amended bicameral report after the upper chamber last June scrapped it for containing a similar provision arming firefighters.
READ: Guns and hoses: BFP bill with provision arming firefighters awaits Duterte’s signature
CHR believes that the time, effort, and funds should have been allocated to address the roots of fire and the reason why firefighters’ response takes a long time in some cases.
And if ever BFP needs assistance for peace and order situations, CHR noted that the PNP can be called upon to address the matter.
“Modernising the BFP should ultimately head towards improving their presence, capacity, and delivery of their duty. Providing security in the community is the mandate of law enforcement officers, which the BFP may request from the Philippine National Police based on the Fire Code of the Philippines,” De Guia said.
“At the same time, the government should also equally address other challenges in addressing fire incidents, such as road congestion that cause a delay in the arrival of firefighters; faithful enforcement of the Fire Code to ensure adherence to standard fire prevention and safety measures; and other operational gaps,” she added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.