CEBU CITY, Philippines - At least seven of the 20 barangay tanods (village security officers) in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City have guns, according to the village chief.
None of them, though, are licensed firearm holders, said barangay Captain Felicisimo Rupinta in a phone interview.
Rupinta told Cebu Daily News that his barangay tanods are poor and cannot afford to pay the processing fee to legalize the ownership of their guns.
But he said he would ask the tanods to stop carrying their firearms to avoid a repeat of Sunday's accidental death of a 14-year-old boy.
The boy, Junard Anter, was helping his father unload a bag of tomatoes when three suspected tanods fired at a drunken man they were chasing. Junard was shot in the heart.
?Ipahipus nalang nako ang mga armas sa akong mga tanod. Motawag nalang mi ug pulis (I will ask the tanods to put their guns away. We will just call the police)," said Rupinta.
But Senior Superintendent Patrocinio Comendador Jr. would not let him off easily.
The Cebu City police director said he will conduct an investigation if the firearms are covered with necessary documents, including permits to carry.
Comendador said that like any civilian, tanods are required to obtain a license before they can own and carry a gun.
According to Rupinta, he did not authorize his tanods to carry firearms. Tanods were only issued ?sirbato (whistles) and batuta (wooden truncheons)? when on duty, he said.
But he admitted that he did not stop the tanods from bringing firearms because he did not want them to become victims of criminals, especially when responding to alarms at the Carbon public market, the city's biggest public market.
He reminded them that if they would bring their firearms, they would be doing so at their own risk.
?Bisan barangay chairman ko, di pa gihapon ko makadala og armas kay molukat pa og permit ug lisensya. Dako man kaayo og gasto, wa tay ikabayad (Even I, the barangay chairman, am not allowed to carry firearms because I first have to obtain a permit and a license. But it is very expensive. I don't have that kind of money),? he said.
Rupinta said the tanods were forced to carry firearms after some of them were killed or wounded by armed criminals. One of them was barangay tanod Sammy Anguti, who was shot dead by robbers in February at the Freedom Park.
The tanods also need these firearms to protect themselves as well as their families, said the barangay chief.
There are no existing guidelines on the issuance of firearms to barangay tanods, according to an official of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7).
But Alejandro Alonzo, CHR-7 director, said he had no objections on the proposal to arm tanods.
?Tanods also need firearms considering the nature of their work. They are police officers of their barangays,? he said.
Alonzo, however, stressed that tanods should first undergo training and seminars as well as some tests before they be allowed to carry guns.
?They should take neuro and psycho exams to test if they are capable to hold firearms,? Alonzo said.
Ermita's chief tanod Vicente Beltran Bosque is facing criminal charges for accidentally shooting the boy while he and three tanods chased and fired at a drunken vendor at the Carbon public market last Sunday.
A complaint for homicide was filed on Tuesday at the Cebu City Prosecutor?s Office against Bosque.
But during the inquest proceeding, Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Joseph Rudolph Val Carillo recommended that the complaint be downgraded to reckless imprudence resulting to homicide because there was no intention to kill the boy.
He set the bail for Bosque's temporary liberty at P8,000.
Cebu City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon will decide whether to file the case in court after seeing the police paraffin test results which would determine whether Bosque had fired a gun.
Rupinta said he would pay the bail bond of Bosque who had received several awards due to his accomplishments as tanod for 21 years. He also promised to provide a defense lawyer for his chief tanod.
?Ako'y mopiyansa kay pila ra may sweldo sa tanod intawn (I will be the one to post bail because a tanod doesn?t earn a lot),? Rupinta said.
Rupinta said his support for Bosque was also meant to prevent other tanods from feeling demoralized. Ermita tanods, he added, were doing a great job even if they were receiving only a small monthly honorarium.
He said he had to get Bosque out of jail because the tanod might get killed there by people whom the tanod had arrested.
During the inquest proceedings, Rupinta said the slain boy's family and the chief tanod were trying to reach a settlement.
Rupinta said they did not want to be questioned by the media.
Assistant prosecutor Carillo said an affidavit of desistance had yet to be signed by the boy's father, Ananiaz Anter.
But the assistant prosecutor said he would not entertain the affidavit of desistance because there was probable cause to file charges of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide against Bosque.
It would be up to the court to decide if the complainant signed the affidavit of desistance, he added.
Ananiaz and wife Luvy told reporters they would not sign the affidavit of desistance.
The father said he was tempted to sign the document that would formalize his withdrawal from the case after Rupinta allegedly offered money for his son's burial expenses.
?Ako dili ko ganahan og samok, dili ko ganahan og kaso maong modawat na lang unta ko og kwarta kay pobre kaayo mi, mopauli na lang ko sa probinsya og adto magpahungaw sa akong kalagot (I don't want trouble. I don't like court cases. That is why I was willing to accept the money because we are very poor. I will just go back to the province and vent my anger there),? Ananiaz said.
He was turned off when Rupinta reportedly asked him to sign the affidavit first before giving him the money.
Wife Luvy said they wanted to see the money first, before signing anything.
They were first offered P20,000 but the mother of six children wanted the amount raised to P30,000.
The couple, however, later agreed not to sign the document and to instead ask the help of the mayor or the governor.
Ananiaz said he hoped that the provincial government would give him money to help him bury his son in Barili town, southern Cebu. At present, the wake of his son is being held in their rented shanty in Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City.
Rupinta denied accusations that he offered money to the victim's father. He said he only told Ananiaz that he would still provide the family assistance despite the filing of charges.
The barangay chief said he believed that Bosque was innocent because the chief tanod allegedly helped bring the boy to the hospital. The victim's father was not also sure that Bosque was the one who fired the gun that killed his son, Rupinta said. /with reports from Correspondents Chris Ligan and Jhunnex Napallacan