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27,000 Filipino policemen don’t have official guns

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – More than 27,000 Philippine police officers _ about a fifth of the national force _ do not have government-issued guns, prompting many of them to rely on their own guns to battle criminals and insurgents, officials said Wednesday.

Like the underfunded Philippine military, one of Asia’s weakest, the 140,000-strong police have struggled with scarce funds and weapons while dealing with widespread crimes, decades-long communist and Muslim rebellions and attacks and threats from al-Qaida-linked militants in the country’s volatile south.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said his department has released $5.7 million (254 million pesos) to purchase 12,696 9mm pistols and arm less than half of the police officers and recruits without government-provided arms.

“Right now, several police officers cannot fully execute their duties because they don’t have their own firearms,” Abad said. “We cannot afford a toothless security force.”

National police spokesman Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the problem has forced many police officers to use their own firearms to battle criminals and insurgents.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who is in charge of the national police, blamed the problem on money lost to corruption and wrong priorities by past officials, who appropriated funds for such projects as renovating a swimming pool in a police camp.

A crackdown on corruption and suspicious deals has allowed the government to save money last year to finance the purchase of firearms and build an initial 21,000 houses for police officers and 34,000 more in the near future, Abad said.

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