By Aaron Recuenco
The procurement of more than 27,000 assault rifles of the Philippine National Police from the United States will push through as the national police chief assured he had already clarified everything to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“As far as the PNP is concerned, we have the blessing of the president to continue with the transaction,” said Director General Ronald dela Rosa, the PNP chief.
Dela Rosa said he had explained to the president during their recent trip to Malaysia that nobody is blocking the transaction for the assault rifles procurement.
“We reported to him that the processing of the documents is going on smoothly according to the SIG Sauer (supplier), they saw no one is blocking it,” dela Rosa said. “So when I explained that to him (Duterte), he said ‘Okay, you continue.’”
‘Blown out of proportions’
The president himself believed the statement by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin might have been blown out of proportions, dela Rosa quipped.
The U.S. state department, a Reuters report claimed earlier this month, halted the sale of more than 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine police as Senator Cardin expressed his concerns over human rights violations in Duterte’s drug war.
Nearly 4,000 suspected drug pushers and users were killed either in legitimate police operations or questionable circumstances since the start of the Duterte administration in July 1.
The reported cancellation irked Duterte, subsequently ordering the PNP to scrap the deal.
The P1.7-billion worth of 27,349 assault rifles—with a discounted price of P64,000 each as a result of the wholesale purchase—was signed in July this year, with delivery expected early next year.
The procurement, initiated by the Aquino administration as the second batch of the equipage program for the PNP after the 100-percent fill-up of short firearms, will increase the percentage fill-up for long firearms from 35 percent to 86 percent.
But dela Rosa said if the U.S. government or any U.S. official is determined to block the deal, “I’m sure the president will tell me to stop it.”
Had the transaction for the assault rifles got derailed, dela Rosa previously said they might transact with other suppliers with the same brand of rifles in other countries like China and Russia.