U.S. Senators file bill to block arms export to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) — Two United States Senators filed a legislation on Thursday restricting the export of certain weapons by the U.S. to the Philippine National Police (PNP), as a response to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Marco Rubio filed the bipartisan bill called, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017."

"President Duterte has unleashed a campaign of extrajudicial killings in his country that has horrified the international community. Mr. Duterte must handle criminal issues through the rule of law and allow drug addicts access to the public health services and treatment they deserve," said Cardin, who is a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

"In the absence of such actions, this legislation is clear in its support for the Filipino people and the importance of our alliance, but also the consequences if Mr. Duterte's actions continue," he added.

The measure also calls for the support of human rights and civil organizations in the Philippines, and to report on sources of narcotics entering the country.

It also emphasizes the commitment of the U.S. in supporting the Philippines, especially in defense, counter-terrorism, maritime law enforcement, and maritime domain awareness.

Sources: U.S. stopped Philippines rifle sale that senator opposed

The proposed legislation cited reports by the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, saying since Duterte's administration began in June 2016, his "relentless campaign of violence against alleged drug offenders" has resulted in the death of more than 7,000 people.

"Senator Rubio and I recognize the Philippines is one of America's oldest friends and allies, and that is why we are committed to the health and well-being of this relationship, and the fundamental human rights of the Filipino people," Cardin added.

Rubio, the chairperson of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on human rights and civilian security, proposed a better way to handle the drug problem in the Philippines.

"This is not the right way to conduct an anti-drug campaign, and our legislation reflects our sincere desire to work with the Philippines to support human rights, expose narcotics networks emanating from mainland China and other countries, and use a public health approach to responsibly counter the dangers that drugs pose to our societies," Rubio said.

PNP Chief reacts

After Cardin announced he will file the legislation, PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said on Wednesday it would be a setback if the U.S. Congress blocks the procurement of around 27,000 assault rifles.

"Kung ganoon talaga na wala nang pag-asa, ibo-block talaga, di na tayo magkakaroon ng ganoong armas, then we have to shift our focus to other sources of firearms," said Dela Rosa.

[Translation: If they will really block the arms procurement, then we have to shift our focus to other sources of firearms.]

PNP to find other suppliers after report of halted U.S. rifle sale

The PNP chief said China and Russia are the most likely alternative sources of these firearms, as they already have standing offers for Duterte.

"Andiyan naman 'yung China, nag-offer. Sabi ni Presidente, buy one, take one daw ang offer ng China…Meron man rin sa Russia. Nag-promise si President (Vladimir) Putin kay President that they can give anything we want, mga kailangan natin na baril," he said.

[Translation: President Duterte said China had a buy one, take one offer…Russian President Vladimir Putin also told our President that he will give us all the firearms we need.]

While local manufacturers can supply locally made M-4 rifles, Dela Rosa said they don't meet certain requirements of the procurement law or their bid is higher compared to imported firearms.

He added the assault rifles are important in improving the capability of specialized police forces and policemen in areas with rebel groups.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.