MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang refused to comment on a report that the signing of a police cooperation agreement with Israel has been delayed due to Israel's concerns about President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.
"Can't comment on a news report," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, September 6, in a message.
Roque merely said there were no expectations that a police agreement would be signed between the Philippines and Israel during President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Jerusalem.
"Police agreement not amongst those that we expected to be signed," said Roque.
According to Hadashot TV News, Israel's Justice Ministry kept erasing provisions of the planned police cooperation deal until there was "nothing really left to sign."
The ministry reportedly had concerns about the Philippine government's campaign against illegal drugs that has led to the deaths of over 4,000 people. Human rights groups peg the number even higher, saying the drug war is also to blame for thousands more extrajudicial killings.
Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed the agreement was in the works but that, at the time of Duterte's visit, it was "not ready to be signed," according to the same report.
A defense official in the Philippine delegation told Rappler that Filipino security officials had meetings related to the possible purchase of Israeli arms or defense equipment. These were not included in Duterte's official schedule.
No government-to-government arms deal was signed during Duterte's visit.
Duterte has railed frequently about how other countries, like the United States and Canada, have cancelled planned purchases by the Philippines for guns and aircraft due to their concerns over human rights violations under his administration.
He has slammed this as "intervention" and the imposition of "Western values."
On the other hand, he's praised China, Russia, and Israel for supposedly having no such qualms. During his meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Duterte said he would order his military to buy equipment "only" from Israel. As their meeting took place, a group of Israelis were gathered outside, protesting Duterte's drug war. (READ: Duterte in Israel: Paying the price for a loose tongue)
Israel Weapons Industry, however, has sold rifles to the Philippine National Police in the past. The PNP purchased 5.56x45mm assault rifles, IWI's Galil Ace, in 3 tranches – 8,170 units in 2016 to 2017, 698 in 2017, and 4,933 in 2018, according to this article on Israel Defense.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.