MANILA (TSR) -Philippine Rodrigo Duterte announced that he has cancelled the planned purchase of 26,000 US-made assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP) as he will not purchase anything that would just spread violence among Filipinos and pay unneeded expensive rifles when there are cheaper offers.
“I would like to announce now that the 26,000 of M-16 that was [sic] maybe ordered or were ordered already, I am ordering the police to cancel it”, Duterte said in a speech delivered after signing the executive order reconstitution and expanding the Bangsamoro Transition Commission attended by Muslim rebel leaders.
“What will we do with those assault rifles anyway? Kill our fellow Filipinos?”, he said.
“I am ordering the police to cancel it. We don’t need it. You know why? Why should we hurry it? Should I buy that rifle (‘Yung baril na ‘yan bilihin ko)? Who am I killing (Sinong patayin ko niyan)? We don’t have outside enemies (Wala naman tayo kalaban). We are the ones killing each other here (Tayo-tayo lang nagpapatayan dito). So why we have to hurry? I don’t have to hurry,” Duterte reiterated in his speech.
“So just forget about it, say that they could be arriving on July of 2017,” Duterte insisted.
PENDING PHILIPPINE MILITARY DECISION
Another reason for the cancellation is that US-made rifles are too expensive and he said the government would be better off getting cheaper weapons from another supplier.
“We will just have to look for another source that is cheaper and may be as durable and as good as those made from the place we’re ordering them. We will not insist on buying expensive arms. We can always get them somewhere else”, he explained.
According to Duterte, Russia and China had shown a willingness to sell arms to the Philippines.
“Russia, they are inviting us. China also. China is open, anything you want, they sent me brochure saying we select there, we’ll give you.
The Filipino President also said he would wait for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies of the government’s decision if they wanted to continue using US-made weapons as they have the bigger say on where the supply of assault rifles will come from.
The Philippines traditionally sources its small arms from the United States. Currently, its armed forces use variants of the M16 and M4 assault rifles which is common among US and Nato nations.
“But I am holding off because I was asking the military if they have any problem. Because if you have, if you want to stick to America, fine.
“But, look closely and balance the situation, they are rude to us,” President Duterte emphasised.
Duterte said in a televised speech he had “lost respect” for the “monkeys” and “fools” in Washington for bullying Philippines into submission.
“Look at these monkeys, the 26,000 firearms we wanted to buy, they don’t want to sell,” he said.
US HALTED SALE … OR NOT
According to procedures in Washington, the State Department informs Congress when international weapons sales are in the works.
Aides said the US State Department had been informed by staff from US Senator Ben Cardin’s office said he would oppose the deal during the pre-notification process, thus effectively halting the sale.
Aides said the top Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was reluctant for Washington to provide the weapons given concerns about the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines during Duterte’s four-month-old war on drugs and crime.
“Committee staff told State that Cardin would block it if it was sent forward. They haven’t sent it. Does that mean it has been stopped? I guess that depends on your definition. It would be highly unusual for State to move it forward with explicit opposition,” a Senate aide said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said he was barred from commenting on the status of the sale, while stressing that the US commitment to the important US-Philippines alliance.
“The department is restricted under federal regulations from commenting on the status of commercial export licence approvals of proposed commercial defence sales,” Kirby said at a daily news briefing.
“So we’re going to stay also committed to working closely with members of Congress to deliver security assistance to our allies and partners worldwide, including the Philippines,” he said.
The US State Department and President Barack Obama have previously expressed concern over the spate of drug-related extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration, which the Philippine President denies.
US Senator Patrick Leahy, the author of Leahy Law – which makes sure that US is not complicit in human rights violations committed by countries that receive aid – also previously warned that assistance to the Philippines may be stopped if the drug-related killings continue to soar.
More than 2,300 people have been unfortunately killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes as part of Duterte’s anti-narcotics effort, which was the platform of his election campaign.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters it was his understanding “we (the United States) have not received any notification … on the (Philippine) cancellation.”