Duterte joking on Russia missiles

POSTSCRIPT - Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte joking on Russia missiles
In this Tuesday Oct. 4, 2016 file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures with a firing stance as he announces issuing side arms to army troopers during his visit to its headquarters in Taguig City. In just 100 days in office, Philippine President Duterte has stirred a hornet's nest by picking a fight with Barack Obama, the United Nations, the European Union and others who have criticized his brutal crackdown against drugs that has left more than 3,600 suspects dead. In another defining aspect of his unorthodox rule, the 71-year-old Duterte has pushed back his country's 65-year treaty alliance with the United States while reaching out to China and Russia.
AP / Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte was probably joking when he announced that he would buy missiles from Russia, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Duterte said on Monday that there is no rush for the Philippines to buy firearms and ammunition because the government is already talking peace with rebel groups. A week earlier, the president said he has asked the military to go to Russia to buy missiles. 

Asked whether the president was joking when he announced plans to purchase Russia-made missiles, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “Probably so, probably so. Maybe it’s a lighthearted statement.” 

Duterte is known for injecting wisecracks in his speeches, keeping the media guessing whether he is issuing a policy statement or just joking.

Last week, the president claimed that God had told him to stop cursing, a statement that he later on dismissed as a joke. Before he assumed the presidency, Duterte said reporters should not believe his statements if they are ridiculous or outlandish. 

But Duterte was definitely serious when he ordered the Philippine National Police to cancel the purchase of some 26,000 rifles from the United States following reports that the deal may be blocked because of human rights issues.  

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin was reportedly opposed to the sale because of alleged human rights abuses under the Duterte administration.  

Duterte has downplayed the reports, saying the Philippines can buy firearms from other sources. He also expressed reservations about buying weapons and bullets, saying they may be used by Filipinos to kill their fellow countrymen.

“Who will I kill with them? We don’t have foes. We are just the ones killing each other here. So what’s my hurry? I don’t have to hurry. I buy bullets for what? For the Filipinos?” the president said. 

Asked how he can reconcile Duterte’s pronouncement that he is not in a hurry to buy firearms and his statement that the Philippines can purchase rifles from other suppliers, Abella said: “From what I understand from the statement, he said it (purchase) is possible although there’s a caution in the statement.”

“He said that what’s the purpose of purchasing so much arms, otherwise it would be used against the Filipino people,” he added.

Western countries have called out Duterte for the spate of killings related to the government’s anti-drug war, which has left more than 3,000 suspected drug offenders dead. The president was unfazed by the criticisms and has vowed to continue the brutal crackdown “until the last drug lord is out of the streets.” 

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