The U.S. government is putting a hold on the sale of thousands of firearms to the Philippines in response to congressional objections.
Concerned about reports of human rights violations and rising extrajudicial killings in the ongoing war on drugs in the Philippines, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, a ranking member with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, reportedly informed the U.S. Department of State that he would oppose the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP), Senate aides revealed to Reuters. As a result of Cardin’s protest, the sale has not been brought up on Capitol Hill.
Over the past few months, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte waged a brutal shoot-to-kill war on drugs that has ended the lives of more than 2,300 people. The majority of those deaths were the result of extrajudicial killings reportedly sanctioned by the government. Duterte’s war on drugs draws criticisms from the U.S. and has created a serious rift between the U.S. and what was once a strong American ally in the Asia Pacific.
Duterte is even calling for a “separation from America.”
Filipino officials expressed disappointment over news of the sudden stop on weapons sales.
“We really wanted the U.S. rifles because they are reliable,” Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa explained to ABS-CBN, “But, if the sale will not push through, we will find another source, maybe from China.”
“There will be other opportunities, the US does not have the monopoly on good firearms manufacturers,” Filipino Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said to reporters.
Duterte told President Barack Obama to “go to hell” in October after claiming that the U.S. government had refused to sell weapons to the Philippines. He said that if the U.S. would not sell him the tools he needed, he would seek assistance from China or Russia.
“If you don’t want to sell me arms, I’ll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said ‘do not worry, we have everything you need, we’ll give it to you,’” Duterte explained. “And as for China, they said ‘just come over and sign and everything will be delivered.'”
“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,” Filipino Senator Panfilo Lacson told Gulf News. “I have yet to see an investigation with the conclusion that massive and state-sanctioned human rights violations were committed under the present regime’s drive against illegal drugs,” he added, defending Duterte.
Lacson noted that now is the time for the Department of National Defense to strengthen the country’s ability to independently produce weapons.
“The US State Department decision now presents a chance for the Philippines to start growing or building up its own local defense industry,” a security observer told the Philippine Star.
He further noted that the U.S. is not a reliable ally.
The San Francisco Police Department reportedly announced last month that it would sever training ties with Filipino police due to alleged human rights violations and the killing of drug suspects.
Evidence suggests that U.S.-Philippine ties are not as “ironclad” as the Obama administration suggests.
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