Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would buy weapons from Russia if the United States blocked the sale of 26,000 assault rifles that would be used by the Philippine National Police. Photo courtesy Malacañang Photo Bureau
MANILA, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will purchase weapons from Russia if the United States blocks the planned sale of 26,000 assault rifles.
Duterte's comments Tuesday follow news that Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, will block the sale of the weapons to the Philippines over human rights concerns.
The weapons are destined for use by the Philippine National Police.
Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City for more than 20 years, ran for the presidency on an anti-crime platform that appealed to the country's upper and middle classes, who fear rising criminality.
He said he would establish a ruthless administration that would eradicate crime syndicates. Philippine officials said about 3,500 people have been killed and nearly 20,000 have been arrested since the start of Duterte's "war on drugs," but human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have said the toll is much higher.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he has options if the United States was to stop the sale of weapons. Duterte recalled a meeting with Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev in May after he won the election.
"Are they scaring me by not selling firearms to us? ... There are a lot of airguns (de bomba) here," Duterte said jokingly, according to Inquirer Mindanao. "Remember what the Russian diplomat said? Come to Russia. We have everything you need."
Ralph Recto, a senator and member of the Philippines' Liberal Party, said Duterte should "jumpstart a program to locally manufacture arms and military equipment" after Cardin's threat.
"It is a wake-up call for us to stop totally relying on foreign suppliers," Recto said.