U.S. defers delivery of assault rifles to Philippines

Philippine National Police conduct anti-terrorism drill in police headquarters at Camp Bagong Diwa at Taguig city, south of Manila on June 1, 2012. (Photo: Jay Directo/AFP/GettyImages)

Philippine National Police conduct an anti-terrorism drill in police headquarters at Camp Bagong Diwa at Taguig city, south of Manila, on June 1, 2012. (Photo: Jay Directo/AFP/GettyImages)

The U.S. State Department has deferred the delivery of thousands of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP) due to humans right violations allegedly committed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs.

Deputy Director General Archie Francisco Gamboa, chief of the PNP directorial staff, announced the shipment’s withholding on Tuesday at a Philippine Senate budget hearing for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the PNP, Inquirer News reported.

“The recent predicament that we have [is that we have] 27,000 [rifles] supposedly ready for delivery to the PNP – Sig Sauer basic assault rifles, 5.56,” Gamboa said at the hearing.

“But because the State Department had not granted the export permit… that’s why we are contemplating on opening the specifications to other platforms so that firearms from other countries can [participate in the bidding],” he added.

While the PNP had not yet paid for the firearms, the money had already been allocated for the U.S. delivery. This means the PNP will have to go through another bidding process with other countries.

Earlier this year, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017. The legislation was intended to restrict defense aid to the country, fund the Philippine human rights community, and promote a public health approach to drug abuse in the country.

The move came as  human rights groups urged the U.S. to continue their ban on firearms sales to Duterte’s regime. In reaction to the Philippine drug war in Nov. 2016, the U.S. State Department suspended the sale of 26,000 military assault rifles to the PNP. This step was due in large part to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) voicing his concerns over human rights violations in the drug war.

When presenting his case before the U.S. Congress to continue the hold on firearms sales, Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Phelim Kine noted Philippine security forces have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users since July 1, 2016.

According to government data, at least 3,116 of those killings have been carried out by police. Those totals, Kine pointed out, do not include victims Duterte often refers to as “collateral damage,” who are sometimes children caught in the crossfire during drug stings.