THE United States will be on the losing end of a decision to cancel the sale of some 27,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police over human rights concerns, the Palace said Thursday.
After Human Rights Watch warned that two US funding programs for the PNP were at risk because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar reiterated that it is not the policy of the administration to condone summary executions by policemen.
He added: “We are the buyers of the rifle, they are the sellers. We won’t lose anything. It’s the United States alone [that stands to lose],” he said.
Unverified reports claimed that the US State Department halted the sale of about 27,000 assault rifles to Philippines police after a Democrat Senator, Ben Cardin expressed concerns about the country’s recent human rights record.
In his speech on Wednesday, President Duterte slammed the United States for “blackmailing” him.
Andanar said that the country can simply turn to Russia, China or even Israel for its weapons.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said the Philippine government should jump-start a program to locally manufacture arms and military equipment following reports that the US sale would not push through.
“It is a wake-up call for us to stop totally relying on foreign suppliers,” Recto said.
He said this is another kind of pivot we need. “To tap our domestic industries for the equipment needs of our policemen and soldiers.”
“If some of the things can be made locally and the products are of the same price and quality as the ones bought abroad, then let us manufacture them here,” Recto said.
Recto cited the existence of a vibrant local firearms industry which has been exporting its products for many decades now.
“There are many of them, from boat builders to vehicle manufacturers, who can step up to the plate once there are firm orders from the government,” Recto said.
He said the country’s car manufacturing industry can supply military and police vehicles, removing the need to buy them abroad.
Recto said President Duterte’s home province of Cebu can even build coastal patrol ships.
“If we’re buying boats either for coastal, river, environmental or fisheries patrol, then let our local shipyards make them,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta