Bureau of Fire Protection
In this July 6, 2019 file photo, firefighters work to put out a fire in Barangay Olympia in Makati City.
The STAR/Kriz-John Rosales
Duterte wants to arm firefighters. But are they allowed, trained to carry guns during operations?
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - August 2, 2019 - 6:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he wants to arm firefighters so they can help combat the enemies of the state, adding that the job of Bureau of Fire Protection personnel is not limited to putting out flames.

“After you kill the fire, go hunt and kill the enemies,” Duterte said in a speech during the 28th founding anniversary of the BFP.

“You know, you have to help in the law and order. You are not limited to just fire. That’s a b******* idea. You have to go around and help the policeman and the military,” he added.

The remarks of Duterte — who, in the past, had repeatedly stressed that uniformed personnel must be armed — raised a question on the mandate of the BFP: Are the country’s firefighters allowed to carry guns and use them during their operations?

Can BFP personnel use firearms?

An official of the BFP, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for lack of authority to talk to the media, told Philstar.com that there are no laws or regulations that spell out whether firefighters must be armed while on duty or not.

But the BFP official stressed that the Fire Code of the Philippines provides that law enforcers, upon request of the BFP, should give necessary assistance during fire fighting operations, fire scene investigations and performance of other duties of the BFP that essentially require the police’s help.

The BFP official added that firefighters may only be allowed to carry guns “if granted authority.” The fire protection bureau is under the Department of Interior and Local Government, or DILG.

What does the BFP’s operational manual say?

Aside from killing fires, the BFP is also mandated to assist the military, upon the direction of the president, in the event of a national emergency.

Firefighters can also be tapped to help control or disperse the crowd during public assemblies.

Under the bureau’s operational procedures manual, members of the BFP augmentation force “shall not carry any kind of firearms or deadly weapons during actual Crowd Dispersal Management operation.”

“Maximum tolerance shall always be properly observed,” it added.

Are firefighters required to undergo gun handling trainings?

According to the BFP official interviewed by Philstar.com, while firearm and shooting lessons are not included in the bureau’s training modules, firefighters have the option to undergo gun handling training “individually, privately.”

But “ideally,” BFP personnel who are assigned in restive places “should have something to protect themselves,” the official added.

Meanwhile, more than 332 towns, cities have no fire trucks

Data from the BFP released last March showed that a total of 332 cities and municipalities in the country don’t have fire trucks.

A majority of the localities still without fire trucks are in the impoverished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, now the Bangsamoro ARMM, with 96.

Eastern Visayas is second with 26, followed by Central Visayas with 24, Northern Mindanao with 23 and Ilocos and Zamboanga peninsula with 22 each.

All 16 cities and one town in the National Capital Region have fire trucks.

BFP chief Director Leonard Banago said they still have a long way to go before all localities have fire trucks.

In same speech before BFP personnel last Thursday, Duterte promised firemen to procure quality firetrucks for the bureau.

“Well, anyway I’d like to really say from the bottom of my heart that I feel your heartaches,” the president. “But you will have more trucks.”

READ: BFP: 332 towns, cities without fire trucks

BUREAU OF FIRE PROTECTION (BFP) COVER STORY EXPLAINER RODRIGO DUTERTE
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