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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he had ordered police to cancel plans to buy American-made assault rifles after a U.S. senator raised concerns that they could be used in his government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
"We will just have to look for another source that is cheaper and maybe as durable and as good," Mr. Duterte said during a speech at the presidential palace in Manila.
The Philippine police had planned to acquire 26,000 rifles from a U.S. supplier under a law-enforcement assistance program before Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) told the Senate last month that he was alarmed about extrajudicial killings carried out by the Philippine police and other groups since Mr. Duterte became president on June 30. So far, thousands of people have been killed.
Mr. Cardin has suggested that the U.S. might have to reconsider its assistance to the country if Mr. Duterte doesn’t pursue a more lawful approach to cracking down on illegal narcotics.
A Senate aide subsequently said that Sen. Cardin’s staff had signaled the senator’s opposition to the sale based on humanitarian grounds during a pre-notification process. Mr. Cardin is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The move prompted Mr. Duterte to lash out last week. Washington is "disrespecting [us]. Just look at those monkeys," Mr. Duterte said on Nov. 2. "The 26,000 rifles we are supposed to buy from them, they no longer want to sell to us. Son of a bitch."
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said last week that law-enforcement assistance programs are designed to address human-rights concerns and help develop more accountable criminal-justice systems.
Mr. Duterte has become known for peppering his outbursts with expletives, which he has directed at President Barack Obama, the United Nations and the European Union, among others. In September, Mr. Duterte called Mr. Obama a "son of a whore," prompting Mr. Obama to cancel a planned meeting.
He has also said he wants to end joint military exercises and patrols with the U.S. in the South China Sea and has sought closer ties to Beijing, noting that both China and Russia have offered to sell arms to the Philippines. However, Mr. Duterte has also asserted that he will honor existing agreements and has deferred to the military, which has close ties with Washington, on security issues.
"We will not insist on buying expensive arms from them," Mr. Duterte said Monday, referring to America. "We can always get them somewhere else."
2016.11.07 / 17:44