Discontinue helicopter deal with Canada — Duterte to AFP

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Duterte said his country has the right to deploy the helicopters as it wishes."Invariably (these helicopters) will be used against the rebels and terrorists". "If I can not use the gunship, the helicopter, then I might as well surrender this government to [the rebels]. Or from the United States, because there is always a condition attached".

The helicopters were to be built at Bell's plant in Mirabel, Que.

Duterte eventually canceled the plan after several senators threatened to block the sale over human rights concerns.

A prosecutor in the International Criminal Court, or ICC, announced Thursday that she was opening a preliminary probe into alleged crimes by Duterte in connection with the war on drugs. Duterte, who once boasted about throwing a man to his death from a helicopter, has also warned government officials they would face the same fate if he learned they were involved in corruption.

"The AFP deal for the acquisition of the Canadian Bell 412 as a combat utility helicopter is a very transparent one".

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The helicopters, Bell said, were to be used for missions including disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.

The review was ordered following criticism that the helicopters may be used against Filipino citizens, including rebels from the New People's Army.

The Philippine military is keen to boost its capabilities as it fights Communist insurgents and Islamic extremists.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque asserted that the Bell helicopters would be used to transport personnel and relief supplies during calamities as well as ferry wounded soldiers.

"These are multi-purpose aircraft for anti-terrorism as well as HADR", he said, using military lingo that refers to disaster response and humanitarian missions. The Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) signed a purchase agreement to get the helicopters for the air force.

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Forty-seven civilians were killed in the fighting and parts of the city were leveled by airstrikes.

Duterte also hinted that Canada should no longer expect the Philippines' help in times of trouble as long as he is president. "We respect the stand of Canada", he explained.

"I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal, and somehow we will look for another supplier", Duterte said, local media reported.

Known for his impromptu decisions and public outbursts, Duterte declared in a nationally televised news conference in southern Davao city, his hometown, that he wants the helicopter deal, along with purchases of unspecified US weapons, halted.

The helicopters are scheduled to be delivered to the Philippines starting the first quarter of next year.

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