Kin appeal for release of Filipino peace monitors in Syria
MANILA, Philippines—A family member of one of the Filipino United Nations peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights appealed on Friday for their immediate release.
Second Lieutenant Xy-son Meneses, brother of Second Lieutenant Xy-rus Meneses who is among those being held by Syrian rebels since Wednesday, said the Filipino peace monitors were only doing their job of enforcing a stable truce between Israel and Syria.
“The purpose of the contingent in Syria is peacekeeping,” Xy-son told reporters in a press briefing at Philippine Army Headquarters in Taguig City Friday. “I hope they would be released.”
Xy-son, 24, also a member of the military, was at a training at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac when the abduction happened.
He was shortly pulled out from the training to face the media, as other family members of the captives are mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao.
The Meneses are based in Matalam in North Cotabato.
A video of 25-year-old Xy-rus was uploaded on YouTube with five other peacekeepers, saying that they were “safe.” At least three videos with the soldiers appearing to read identical statements were uploaded on the video-sharing site.
The six peacekeepers were dressed in camouflage and blue bullet-proof vests emblazoned with the words UN and Philippines.
“We are here safe in this place. We are here because while we are passing through position H-Zero-Alpha to Jamlah, there were bombing and artillery fires. This is why we stopped and, civilian people tell us, for our safety, and distributed us in different places to keep us safe,” he said in the video.
“And they give us good accommodation and give us food to eat and water to drink,” Xy-rus said.
Xy-rus, who holds a rank of Captain as a UN peacekeeper in Golan Heights, is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 2011.
Meanwhile, the younger Meneses, Xy-son, said he trusted the military and government’s capability to deal with the hostage situation.
He said he found out about the incident through their mother, who received a text message from Army spokesman Colonel Randolph Cabangbang. He then called the latter.
“Of course [my parents] did not expect it and my mother and father were really worried,” he said.
“But then we have trust in government and in the Philippine Army in handling the negotiations,” he said.
Even with the fate of his elder brother, he said he would still want to be deployed as a UN peacekeeper in the future.
Meanwhile, in the same briefing, military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the videos validated their official reports that the peacekeepers were unharmed.
“With the uploading of Youtube we’re able to validate and confirm prior info they are safe and they are unharmed. Look at the video they are in complete uniform, others wearing force protection and vest with proper markings of UN,” he said.
He added that they were “optimistic” that the captives will be released soon, especially that the rebel side signified in an international media outfit that they were asking for the presence of International Committee of the Red Cross should they release them.