DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Friday, February 9, ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to cancel the deal with Canada to buy 16 helicopters.
In his press conference here, the President mentioned that Canada has said it would only sell the helicopters if it will be used for evacuation and emergency purposes.
“Kasi sabi nila, magpabili lang sila sa atin but only for evacuation and emergency, hindi natin pwede gamitin ‘yung para sa anti-insurgency, because if it is used against the Filipino rebels, hindi nila ibigay,” the President said.
“So this is my reaction: I want to tell the Armed Forces to cut the deal, ‘wag na ituloy and somehow we will look for another supplier,” he said.
During the Manila Times’ 7th Business Forum, Duterte said he respects the decision of the Canadian government.
“We respect the policy of the Canadian people, well and good, do not buy anything that has something to do with arms,” he said in his speech.
At the same time, he assured the Canadians that “we are friends, we do not hate you, we love Canadians because there are a lot of Filipinos there.”
In the same speech, Duterte defended Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, saying his right-hand man has nothing to do with the project to acquire the new frigates.
He noted that it was purely an issue between the military top brass and the Department of National Defense (DND).
He said there was a squabble between Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado, who wanted a different deal.
The purchase of frigates was approved during the time of the Aquino administration with former DND chief Voltaire Gazmin signing the contract.
The President wants Go to demand a public hearing in a Senate investigation and not an inquiry behind closed doors.
“Kaya nung sinabi nila na nag-intervene tapos tumawag, may Senate investigation. Sabi ko “Bong…” Kay sinabi sa kanya, “Sige lang, tutal Executive session,” he said.
“Sabi ko: ‘Yan ang huwag mong gawin, Bong. Demand an open and transparent public hearing. And demand how this came about, the original. Para makita and that it may be to their sorrow, lalabas talaga ‘yan diyan. Kung bakit nagku-compete silang dalawa, maglagay ng…
At huwag kang pumayag ng secret-secret meeting diyan. Harap-harapan,” he further said.
The President stressed that his administration is serious in fighting corruption, noting that commercial documents do not reach his desk.
“Kung ikaw Cabinet member, the Department of Highways, iyo ‘yan. Hindi ako makialam. Huwag mong ipadala sa akin for approval. Kasi noon, in the past, magdaan doon kasi ‘pag mga kasi — Si Medialdea walang pakialaman, hindi dumaan sa kanya ‘yan,”
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct a preliminary investigation on the alleged acts associated to the campaign against illegal drugs.
“Go ahead and proceed in your investigation,” he said in a press conference here. “And your individual thinking says that it is a crime… But what is extrajudicial killing?”
The President noted that if he is accused of extrajudicial killing, the provision of extrajudicial killing “is not found anywhere.”
“So how can you now accuse me of a crime when the law says the treaties that we enter into forms our part of the law of our land,” he said.
“Our land says, the Philippine land republic says that before a penal statute for a punitive act can be a basis for prosecution, you have to publish it. Was there any publication? None. What is in the Revised Penal Code? Is there extrajudicial killing?” the President said.
Also during the press conference, the President declared that no country can bring the Philippines into trouble as long as he’s the President.
He also noted that Benham Rise or the Philippine Rise belongs to the Philippines.
“The Philippine Rise or the Benham Rise is ours… Benham Rise or the Philippine Rise belongs to the Philippines,” Duterte said.
“We will claim exclusive ownership of the economic zones,” he said. ### (PND)