President Duterte’s recent pronouncement that firefighters need to be armed to help police and military in maintaining law and order has raised a lot of eyebrows.
Many will agree that firemen do not carry guns because they are not expected to be in any situation that requires being armed. Police officers and soldiers are armed because they are expected to be in such cases most of the time, if not all the time.
Firemen, policemen, and soldiers have different sets of specialized and rigid training. Combining firefighting and law enforcement would be quite detrimental to the performance of any individual that tries to wear both hats.
An exemption to this, perhaps, is the arson investigator who takes charge of probing fire-related crimes like arson. The Bureau of Fire Protection does not require the average Juan The Bombero to undergo weapons training simply because there are other agencies that provide that service: The Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Armed Forces. It is not the job firemen signed up for.
Surely, you will agree that many lawmen do not want to be firemen and vice versa. Both have different callings or chosen fields of endeavor. However, for firefighters who want to play cop, they can train to become arson investigators.
In the case of responding to a fire call in a crime-prone area, law enforcement officers are expected to arrive at the location as fast as firefighters do. In the event fire trucks come ahead of patrol cars, firemen wait for policemen’s arrival before entering the scene.
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Possessing a firearm and being allowed to carry it outside one’s residence is a serious matter.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that every firearm applicant has to go through a psychiatric test. They also have to undertake a gun safety seminar and a written examination as well. In spite of taking similar examinations and seminars on top of their rigid training, some policemen are still guilty of firing their guns indiscriminately, especially when drunk. Now, this plan to arm firemen.
Is the BFP even allowed by law to arm its personnel?
Firing Line certainly agrees with Senator Panfilo Lacson that this needs further study.
This corner also agrees with a firefighter who said the basic rules of emergency services are:
If it’s bleeding, call a medic.
If it needs to be shot or detained, call a police officer.
For everything else, call a firefighter.
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Editor’s Note: Robert B. Roque Jr. is a veteran journalist who started out as a correspondent for Manila Bulletin’s tabloid TEMPO in 1983. In 1989, at age 27, he rose to become the youngest associate editor of a newspaper of national circulation. In mid-2000, he took the helm of the paper as its editor until his voluntary retirement in 2012. He currently writes a syndicated column for TEMPO, Remate, and Hataw newspapers, the online news site Beyond Deadlines, and now for THEPHILBIZNEWS.COM. A former journalism lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas from 1992 to 2002, Roque is also an active member of the Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world, having served as head of the Philippine Lions (council chairperson) in Lion Year 2011-2012. His column appearing here regularly will be written in Filipino on Tuesdays and in English on Thursdays.