Palace: Filipino forces in Golan Heights made right decision

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Friday, September 5, 2014

THE Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights made the right decision when they made the "greatest escape" from the Syrian rebels to end last week's standoff, a Palace official said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the government was supporting its troops who decided to fight with the Syrian militants.

"We believe that—and we are very certain—that our Philippine troops, our Filipino peacekeepers, made the right decision," he said, noting that the situation on the ground has already changed.

He said the United Nations-led peacekeeping force used to just ensure peace and order between Syria and Israel.

However, the Syrian rebels, a third party, intervened, he said.

"What we have in the situation on the ground, in the Golan Heights, was that there was a third party non-state that intervened; meaning, the Syrian rebels," he said.

"And so, the rules of engagement changed in the sense that, while the peacekeepers are not supposed to take any offensive operation; however, they were attacked and so they would have to defend themselves. This is a situation that was apparent and was obvious in the situation between the Syrian rebels and Philippine troops," Lacierda added.

Despite running out of ammunition, he said it was "not something imaginable" for the Filipino soldiers to just surrender to the Syrian rebels.

"And so, we stand by our Filipino peacekeepers, they did the right decision," he said.

Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha, the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force or Undof, accused the Filipino troops of being unprofessional when they defied his order, thus, endangering the lives of the Fijian hostages.

He said that what the Filipino troops did was an act of cowardice.

The Filipino forces "defied orders at a time when we had negotiated a ceasefire with the rebels to ensure that all troops in the conflict area could exit," the UN commander reportedly said.

Lacierda refused to comment on Singha's statement against the Filipino troops, saying he did not want to exacerbate the situation.

He added the matter should be handled through diplomatic channels and "we will leave it with the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to do so." (SDR/Sunnex)

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