Duterte turns to Russia for rifles
President Duterte has belittled the decision of the US state department to halt the planned sale of more than 27,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, saying the Philippines could just turn to Russia for firearms.
“Susmaryosep! Is that all?” the President told reporters after visiting the tombs of his parents in Davao City on Tuesday night.
“Is that all they can say to threaten me? That they will not sell firearms to us? We have many air rifles here,” he said in jest.
The US state department stopped the planned sale of 27,304 M4 assault rifles to the PNP on Monday after Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said he would oppose the transaction.
The state department informs the US Congress when international weapons sales are in the works. Aides said Senate foreign relations committee staff informed the state department that Cardin, the most senior Democrat on the committee, would oppose the deal with the Philippines during the department’s prenotification process for the sale of M4s, stopping the deal.
Aides said Cardin was reluctant for the United States to provide weapons to the Philippines given concerns about human rights violations in the country.
More than 3,700 people have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes since Mr. Duterte took office and launched a brutal war on illegal drugs on June 30.
US criticism of Mr. Duterte’s violent campaign against drugs has angered the Philippine leader, who almost daily spews profanity-laced tirades against the United States, complicating relations between Washington and Manila.
Last month, during a state visit to Beijing, Mr. Duterte declared “separation” from the United States and realignment to China and Russia.
Before his trip to Beijing, Mr. Duterte said the United States had refused to sell some weapons to the Philippines, but he did not care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.
In Davao City on Tuesday night, Mr. Duterte said his administration may turn to Russia for arming PNP personnel.
“Remember what the Russian diplomat said? ‘Come to Russia. We have everything you need,’” Mr. Duterte said, recounting his meeting in Davao with Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev before the elections in May.
Russian light arms
The Russians have nothing like the short, light M4 assault rifle that fires the popular 5.56-millimeter cartridge.
But standard issue for Russian police forces is the Vityas-SN submachine gun, chambered for the 9×19-mm Parabellum round, and PP-2000, a police submachine gun that also fires the 9×19-mm Parabellum cartridge.
For police pistols, the Russians have the Yarygin PYa Grach chambered for the 9×19-mm Parabellum round and looks like a variant of the 9-mm Czech-made CZ SPO1.
Still standard issue for Russian police forces is the Makarov pistol, chambered for the 9×18-mm Makarov cartridge, which is little known in the Philippines.
For rifles, the Russians can offer the PNP, and maybe the Philippine Army and the Marines, various versions of the AK-47, the latest of which is the AKM-47, which is chambered for the heavy 7.62×39-mm cartridge.
PNP still wants M4s
Even so, the PNP is not yet giving up hope that it could get M4s.
The national police chief told reporters on Wednesday that the US supplier, SIG Sauer, had told the PNP that as of Nov. 1, the export license for the M4 sale was still “undergoing the normal process” in the US state department.
“We will continue to monitor the status of this license and advice of any meaningful changes,” said PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
“We don’t yet have an official notice confirming the alleged halting of the procurement. For now, the delivery will push through,” he said.
Dela Rosa said the M4s were intended for the PNP campaign against private armed groups, not for Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
In a radio interview earlier on Wednesday, Dela Rosa said his men could use pistols
or even their fists in fighting drug suspects.
Dela Rosa said his only regret should the M4 deal fall through would be “the time lost,” as the government would have to conduct another competitive bidding for a new contract for M4s from another source.
In a news briefing at Malacañang on Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, commenting on Cardin’s concern about the human rights situation in the Philippines, said President Duterte had invited the United Nations to investigate.
“However, the invitation itself does not preclude a careful process on procedures to be agreed upon between the Philippine government and the [United Nations],” Abella said.