DFA in talks with UN on surrender controversy
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Tuesday said that they are already in talks with the United Nations (UN) about the alleged orders of a UN Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) commander to Filipino peacekeepers to surrender their arms to Syrian rebels.
“The DFA in coordination with Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) is currently in close consultation with UN on this matter,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose told reporters in a briefing.
“[Points] raised by Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, AFP Chief of Staff will be included in the topics for discussion. DFA is the one who has a representation before the UN,” he said.
Catapang said in interviews with the media that Filipino UN peacekeepers defied orders by an UNDOF commander to surrender their arms after being surrounded by the Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights region between Israel and Syria.
Capt. Nilo Ramones, the ground commander of the 44 Filipino peacekeepers, however, refused to follow the order for fear that they might end up as hostages just like the 44 Fijian peacekeepers captured in an earlier date by the Syrian rebels.
“The UNDOF commander wanted to save the Fijians at the expense of the Filipino peacekeepers. But it’s not our fault that the Fijians were taken hostage,” Catapang was quoted as saying in a report.
“What I mean is, our commander [wanted to] save the Filipinos first and then we would help the Fijians later,” he said.
Ramones was able to contact DND and AFP officials in the Philippines to clear his decision to defy the order to surrender issued by the UNDOF commander.
The Filipinos were eventually able to escape from their surrounded position under the cover of darkness.
Vice President Jejomar Binay backed the decision of the Filipino peacekeepers to disobey the order to surrender saying that they would likely have ended up as hostages similar to the Fijian contingent if they gave up their arms.
“I think the situation warranted that they not surrender their only means to defend themselves. A spoken guarantee of safe passage is simply not enough assurance, given that it was their own lives at stake,” Binay said in a statement Tuesday.
“They could also have been taken hostage like their counterparts from Fiji if they surrendered their arms,” he said.
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