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Philippines downplays US sanction over Russia arms deal

Duterte meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Philippines is not bound by United States laws, Malacañang said on Thursday, as it dismissed possible sanctions from Washington if Manila pushes through with its purchase of grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian firm.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, a former international law professor, said Washington could not enforce US laws to the Philippines.

“As a professor of international law and constitutional law, I do not know how they can enforce a US domestic legislation on a sovereign state, on a transaction that will not occur in US soil,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

The US last year imposed sanctions against countries buying military and defense equipment from Russia.

While Roque said the government would study the matter, he said the decision of the Russian state-owned firm Rosoboronexport was a sovereign decision.

“I really do not know what would be the legal basis for us to be covered by this law. First of all, as a sovereign country, in the exercise of a function of national defense, we have absolute immunity as a sovereign state” he said.

He questioned how a US law could be applicable to the Philippines.

“I do not know how US law could be applicable to a transaction that will be done outside the United States,” he said. “The sale will be most likely in Russia, the goods are in Russia, and the delivery in the Philippines. So what is the relevance of US laws?”

The Palace official said the Philippines is “free to enter into contracts as we please.”

“It is not possible that US laws have the effect of superlaws applicable to anyone, even outside their jurisdiction, most especially if a party involved in a sovereign state,” he said.

“The Philippines is a sovereign state. We have immunity, and we are free to enter into contracts as we please, and we are not bound by any domestic law particularly where the transaction will not occur in US soil,” he added.

A news wire report said the Philippines had agreed in October 2016 to purchase a P400-million 750 RPG-7B rocket propelled grenade launchers from Russia.

Asked if the deal was still a go, Roque said, “well I do not know if it is a go. The official stand is we will study the matter.”

“But off-hand, I am giving the legal position of the Palace- that I do not see how we are bound by a US extraterritorial piece of legislation,” he said.


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