The US State department halted the planned sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines’ national police amid concerns about human rights violations there, The Guardian has reported.
Senate aides reportedly said Senator Ben Cardin, a top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, said he would oppose the transaction with the long-time ally of the US.
The relationship between the two countries has been complicated lately by President Rodrigo Duterte’s angry reaction to Washington’s criticism of his war on drugs.
Duterte said last month that innocent people and children were ‘collateral damages’, in his war on drugs because police use automatic weapons when confronting criminals.
“When they meet, they exchange fire. With the policeman and the M16, it’s one burst, brrr, and [he] hits 1,000 people there and they die,” he said in an interview.
More than 2,300 people have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes in connection with the anti-narcotics campaign since Duterte took office on 30 June.
State department officials did not comment.
Earlier this month, Duterteeven bad-mouthed President Barack Obama and said the US had refused to sell some weapons to his country, but he did not care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.
An open break with Manila could create problems for the US in a region where China’s influence has grown.