Senator Panfilo Lacson dismissed a move by the United States to cancel the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine police, saying that the country can look elsewhere for such weapons and even manufacture its own.
“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.
On Monday, the US State Department stopped the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police after a senior lawmaker, Senator Ben Cardin, questioned the country’s record on respect for human rights. In recent months, Cardin, according to a report by Reuters, said that he would oppose the impending sale of guns, believed to be copies of the American-designed M4 assault rifle with popular with West-allied armed forces.
But Philippine Senator Lacson said Cardin may have jumped the gun too early by moving to cancel the sale of small arms through legislative action. After all, he said, there is no proof that the government, particularly the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, sanctioned the killings.
“First, 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, so I would take US Sen. Cardin’s statement as his own opinion and nothing more,” Lacson said.
Duterte, upon assuming office in July, had unleashed a massive drive against drugs.
Lacson, who once headed the national police as director general, added while the issue on human rights is one thing, the matter on providing arms for the police to fight crime is another.
He said that if the US would not provide weapons for the PNP, “there are tens of other countries that manufacture better and probably cheaper assault rifles than the US,” he said.
He said this impending rejection by the US State Department may turn out beneficial to the Philippines.
“There is now more reason for our Department of National Defence to revive our self-reliance programme so we can produce our own weapons and ammunition and other military hardware,” he said.
The country had been producing its own top quality assault rifles since 2009.
A southern Metro Manila firm, United Defence Manufacturing Corp. had been making rifles that are being used internationally by independent defence contractors.
As for bigger weapons, Philippines had largely been dependent on the United States for its defence needs, but recently, it had come to diversity its armament sourcing. Last week, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed a contract for the purchase of two brand new missile frigates from South Korea.
The Philippines had also ordered 12 brand new F/A 50 fighter-ground attack aircraft from South Korea, two of which have already been delivered.
Majority Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto III did not mince words when reached for comment and said: “Ayaw nila eh ‘di huwag! (If they don’t want to, fine!)”
He cited how the US has been vocally criticizing drug-related deaths in the Philippines, when America’s neighboring Mexico was having it worse. Drug cartels are known to be behind tens of thousands of killings in Mexico; in the Philippines, the spate of drug deaths began amid the state’s fierce campaign against the illicit trade.
“They should just sell to extremists if they don’t want to sell [arms] to us,” Sotto said. /Jean Mateo/ Gulfnews