by Aaron B. Recuenco
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), admitted yesterday that the sudden refusal of the United States to sell assault rifles will affect the law enforcement and internal security operations of his men.
Had the deal pushed through, Dela Rosa said, the firing test would have been done by next month or March next year before the actual delivery of the 27,000 units of M4 assault rifles.
The main recipients of the assault rifles are the elite forces of the PNP — the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the Regional and Public Safety units — which are active in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group and other terror groups, as well as other threat groups such as the communist and Moro rebels.
“We are affected in terms of time lost because there is a need to arm our units especially those involved in counter-terrorism and internal security operations,” said Dela Rosa.
But the PNP chief also said that the delay in the purchase of assault rifles will have no impact in the campaign against illegal drugs.
“Don’t worry, those long firearms will be used on the counter-terrorism and internal security operations and not in the campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.
“It will not affect us, our policemen could fight even through fistfight,” he said.
NO OFFICIAL WORD YET
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that there is no official word yet from the United States government on the reported cancellation of the Washington-Manila arms deal due to the Philippine government’s alleged human rights violations in pursuing its war on illegal drugs.
Outgoing DFA spokesman and newly appointed Ambassador to Malaysia Charles Jose said they “have not been officially notified” on the supposed decision of the US State Department to stop the sale of assault rifles to the PNP.
“We can’t comment as we have not been notified officially by US government on the matter,” he said.
The purchase of the M4 assault rifles is the second batch of the Capability Enhancement Program (CEP) of the Aquino administration focusing on improving the PNP’s firepower.
It was recalled that the first focus is to address the shortage of short firearms in the PNP, which led to the one-time, big-time procurement of 76,000 Glock pistols.
The budget for the purchase of the M4 assault rifles was sourced from the CEP budget of the PNP from 2013 to 2015. All the processes were already complied until it was approved and awarded to the winning bidder last July.
Although he was saddened by the cancellation, Dela Rosa said they could not insist on pushing for the procurement, adding that they have not paid any single centavo for it.
“If they don’t want to sell, then we will find another arms supplier like from Germany, Israel, China, Belgium and Russia. There are plenty of suppliers where we could buy it,” he said.
Dela Rosa said that he respects the decision not to sell the assault rifles to the Philippines, as well as the opinion of a US senator who opposed it.
It was recalled that the purchase of the assault rifles was put in limbo after a US senator declared that he would oppose it due to the alleged blatant human right violations of the Duterte administration’s war against drugs.
“If the reason is human rights violations, then that is his opinion. We leave it to them to decide on what to do. “It will not affect us, our policemen could fight even through fistfight,” Dela Rosa added.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said yesterday that the US showed to the world its bully attitude when its State Department decided not to sell 26,000 assault rifles to the PNP after President Duterte’s independent foreign policy now shifting towards China and Russia.
Lacson was the former Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general during the Estrada administration.
Though it may disrupt the implementation of the PNP’s Capability Enhancement Program (CEP), the Philippine government should now start shopping in other territories for the PNP’s armament requirements, Lacson said.
A call to jumpstart a program to locally manufacture arms and military equipment was made by Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto yesterday.
Recto stressed this as he described as a “wake-up call’’ for the Philippine government to stop totally relying on foreign arms suppliers.
“This is another kind of pivot we need. To tap our domestic industries for the equipment needs of our policemen and soldiers,” Recto said.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said the government could find other sources to acquire weapons for the PNP if indeed the US Department of State stopped the sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the country. (With reports from Mario Casayuran, Charissa M. Luci, and Elena Aben)
Tags: Abu Sayyaf Group, Manila Bulletin, mb.com.ph, News today, Philippine National Police, Philippine news, PNP chief rues loss of time in anti-terrorism security operations, Ronald Dela Rosa, Special Action Force