by Aaron B. Recuenco
President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light for the purchase of more than 27,000 assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP) from the United States.
The PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has assured that the deal will push through, saying he had convinced Duterte that nobody was opposing the purchase.
Dela Rosa said he presented his case to the President during their recent trip in Malaysia.
“We reported to him that the processing of the documents is going 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’,” he added.
He said the President himself thinks the remarks of a US senator questioning the purchase might have been blown out of proportion.
Senator Ben Cardin was quoted saying that he would block the purchase of the rifles because of human rights violations committed as Duterte waged war on drugs.
Nearly 4,000 suspected drug pushers and users were killed both in police operations and questionable death, since Duterte assumed the presidency on July 1.
The President was incensed by Cardin’s statement and ordered the PNP to cancel the purchase.
Dela Rosa said Duterte has since changed his mind. “As far as the PNP is concerned, we have the blessing of the President to continue with the transaction,” he said.
The P1.7-billion contract for 27,349 rifles was signed in July this year. The rifles, which cost P64,000 each, are expected to be delivered early next year.
The procurement of assault rifles, 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.
If, for some reason or another, the deal is eventually scrapped, the Philippines might turn to other suppliers in countries like China and Russia.