President Rodrigo Duterte said he's considering arming 42,000 community leaders, known as barangay captains, after consulting with the police and intelligence agency.
Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte, holding a rifle, has vowed to give free guns to community leaders - so long as they promise to use them to fight drugs and crime
Martin Dino, the interior department undersecretary responsible for barangays, said handguns would be provided for free, or private purchases subsidised, but only for those not involved in illegal drugs.
Mr Dino said: "The condition is that the barangay captain should fight drugs and crime. If he is conniving with criminals, he could be the one shot."
Duterte has repeatedly said thousands of community officials were involved in the trade, without elaborating.
But last week he vowed barangays will be provided with the same legal protection as soldiers or police, and they "will never go to jail" if they shot suspected criminals in the performance of their duty.
A group of alleged drug dealers rounded up during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Manila
The president's signature war on crime and drugs has killed thousands of people and caused international alarm.
Activists and Duterte's political opponents say the campaign is overwhelmingly targeting users and small-time peddlers in poor communities and accuse police of systematically executing suspects, often based on weak intelligence.
The authorities reject that and say all those killed were drug dealers who put up violent resistance and left police with no choice but to shoot them.
The plan to arm civilians is supported by the association of barangay officials, according to its president, Edmund Abesamis.