U.S. senator threatens to block weapons sale to PNP

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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U.S. senator threatens to block weapons sale to PNP
Senator Benjamin Cardin also says he is 'deeply disturbed' by the invitation of President Donald Trump for President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House

MANILA, Philippines – US Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland threatened to block the sale of certain US weapons to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as a consequence of the “barbaric” actions of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Cardin, along with US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, also promised to support human rights groups in the Philippines.

“Later this week, I will introduce bipartisan legislation along with Senator Rubio and several other colleagues to make it clear to President Duterte that there will be consequences for his barbaric actions, including preventing certain US weapons from being sold to the national police and supporting human rights and civil society organizations in the Republic of the Philippines,” Cardin said in a statement on Monday, May 1.

A bipartisan law is one supported by both the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Cardin is a Democrat while Rubio is a Republican.

The proposed bipartisan legislation comes as Duterte’s war on drugs has killed at least 7,000 people, from both legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings. 

Recently, controversies related to the war on drugs have again hounded the PNP. 

In a rare move, 7 witnesses named a Manila policeman, Police Officer 3 Ronald Alvarez, as allegedly behind drug-related summary killings in a poor community, according to an exclusive report by Rappler.

The PNP is also under fire for a secret detention cell uncovered in Manila, linked to alleged police abuses. 

‘Deeply disturbed’

The reported human rights abuses in the Philippines prompted another criticism from Cardin, this time against the invitation of US President Donald Trump for Duterte to visit the White House. (READ: Duterte ‘can’t promise’ to accept Trump invite)

The senator said: “I am deeply disturbed by President Trump’s cavalier invitation to President Duterte to visit the White House.  This is a man who has boasted publicly about killing his own citizens.” 

He explained that “ignoring human rights will not advance US interests in the Philippines or any place else,” and in fact will have an opposite outcome.

“The President should immediately rescind this invitation to the White House,” Cardin said.

Cardin, 73, is a ranking member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

As early as September 2016, he has criticized Duterte’s war on drugs. 

In November 2016, Duterte ordered the PNP to cancel the purchase of assault rifles from a US firm. This, after Reuters reported that Cardin wants to stop the sale of more than 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines due to alleged human rights abuses. 

In the same month, however, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the PNP has “the blessing of the President to continue the transaction as long as it’s not barred.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.