JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra sees no need to arm civilian volunteer groups that will help in crime prevention, saying the police force is “strong enough to perform (its) duty” of protecting the people.

Mr. Guevarra made the statement to reporters Tuesday after President Rodrigo R. Duterte proposed the issuance of firearms to a new group of anti-crime volunteers that was launched Friday.

Police chief Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar has expressed support to the recommendation.

The Justice chief, on the other hand, noted that gun ownership entails strict adherence to regulations.

“Except during the martial law period, civilians have always been free to arm themselves for their protection, provided they comply with all existing laws and regulations on the ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms outside residence, including the requirement to pass a neuro-psychiatric test,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a group message.

“Allowing them to band together and act like a vigilante group, however, is a totally different matter,” he said.

“Besides, except for a few high-profile incidents of violence, criminality on the streets is at an all-time low, due in part to the pandemic,” he added.

In a private mobile message, Mr. Guevarra explained that should anti-crime volunteers be given weapons, they “need to be properly screened, evaluated, and tested” as “there are existing laws on ownership and possession of firearms.”

Several lawmakers and human rights advocates have opposed Mr. Duterte’s suggestion saying it may lead to abuses and other crimes. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago