The Philippine National Police has been flooded with requests from religious leaders seeking permits to carry firearms following the recent killings of clergymen, the most recent of which was the slaying of priest Richmond Nilo in Nueva Ecija, an official said Wednesday.
PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said the Firearms Explosive Office had received at least 246 applications to carry firearms from the religious sector.
“We have received 246 requests for Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence from 188 priests and 58 ministers, preachers and pastors,” Albayalde said.
He made his statement even as Rep. Wes Gatchalian said he had filed House Bill 7870 seeking to grant Hazard Pay to all public prosecutors.
“Prosecutors discharge a vital and indispensable role in the Philippine criminal justice system,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“They are the front line of the law who ensure that those who are guilty of crimes are justly dealt with. By their very job description they come face to face with some of the most hardcore criminals in this country.”
Albayalde said they had not yet examined all the requests to carry arms or determined whether those who had applied had received death threats.
He said religious leaders who wished to own firearms must undergo training before they could be issued licenses to carry them.
“We are also amenable to taking the extra step of providing firearms proficiency and marksmanship training to religious leaders who wish to own and possess firearms,” Albayalde said.
Religious leaders started seeking permits to carry firearms following the recent killing of Nilo, the third priest to be killed in the span of six months.
In April, priest Mark Ventura was gunned down shortly after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan, while priest Marcelito Paez was killed a few hours after helping to free a political prisoner in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, on Dec. 5 last year.
The religious leaders’ request to own and possess firearms came even as the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines frowned on the idea of arming priests.
The CBCP president and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said danger had always been a part of a priest’s ministry, and that it was a priest’s the duty to face danger in carrying out his mission.
“I would strongly oppose to arm the priest. We are men of God, men of the church and it is part of our ministry to face danger, to face death,” Valles said.