US halts gun deal over war on drugs

THE United States has canceled the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police due to increasing concerns about human rights violations in the country, unconfirmed reports said Tuesday.

Reports said the cancellation came after US Senator Ben Cardin opposed the sale because of alleged human rights violations in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives since he came to office.

US Senator Ben Cardin
Neither the Foreign Affairs Department nor the US Embassy could confirm the report, however.

A Palace spokesman said the administration is ready to procure guns from another source.

“It is an issue between the US State Department and Senator Ben Cardin. I will have to talk to the PNP and find out their next move,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.

“In any case, I am sure our government can procure [the guns from] somewhere else,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Philippines does not stand to lose anything if the US State Department halts the sale.

“Since it’s a planned sale of assault rifles by the US to the Philippines, we do not stand to lose anything except one less gun store to choose from,” Lacson said in a statement.

The former chief of the PNP noted there are tens of other countries that manufacture better and probably cheaper assault rifles than the US.

Relations between the Philippines and the US have turned sour since Duterte began denouncing the Americans for criticizing the high death toll in his drug war.

In June, Duterte told the United Nations to “shut up” about his bloody war on drugs, saying it could not “even solve the Middle East carnage.”

In August, Duterte called US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg a “homosexual son of a whore,” and accusing the outgoing envoy of meddling the elections.

Shortly after that, the US said the $32 million in assistance to promote human rights and security would undergo “vigorous vetting” and called on the Philippines to observe the rule of law and due process in the campaign against illegal drugs.

Also in August, UN Special Rapporteurs on Summary Executions Agnes Callamard and the Right on Health Danius Puras urged Duterte to put an end to the wave of summary executions of alleged drug users and pushers.

Duterte threatened to pull out of the UN, then later said it was only a joke.

Just before he left for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he cursed US President Barack Obama, calling him “a son of a bitch” for questioning the anti-drug campaign.

A one-on-one meeting between the two leaders was canceled shortly after that.

Duterte maintained the attack on his critics, calling the UN and the European Union “hypocrites.”

He also told Obama to “go to hell” and the EU to “choose purgatory because hell was already full.”  With John Paolo Bencito and Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: US Senator Ben Cardin , United States , Assault rifles sale , Philippine National Police , Human rights violations , President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs
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