Deployment of PH peacekeepers on hold - Palace

Posted at 09/02/14 10:05 PM

MANILA - The government will not deploy, for now, Filipino peacekeepers to strife-torn areas, Malacanang said.

In a press conference, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said “there is no decision yet on future deployments.”

This comes on the heels of the standoff between Syrian rebels and Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights last week. The peacekeepers managed to flee from the rebels linked to the al Qaeda network in what the Armed Forces called “the greatest escape.”

"The President has instructed the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prepare a report on the events over the past weekend as a guide for future policy and actions in similar situations," said Coloma.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. expressed his lack of confidence with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander over his handling of the situation of Filipino peacekeepers.

When the Syrian rebels encircled the Filipino peacekeepers, the commander supposedly ordered them to surrender their firearms once the rebels attack.

“I countermanded the order of the UNDOF commander who said that if we are attacked, we should surrender and raise the white flag,” Catapang has said.

He dismissed the commander’s order saying, “We will not do that. We won’t be put to shame.”

He said he knew the rules of engagement there since he was the one who was directed to set-up the Filipino delegation back in 2009.

Even before the incident happened, however, the government had ordered a pullout of Filipino troops this October citing the risks the peacekeepers are facing each day.

Several Filipinos in strife-torn Golan Heights have already been abducted.

"The Philippines is committed to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force or UNDOF. The Filipino peacekeepers will complete their tour of duty in the Golan Heights next month, October 2014," Coloma said.

"The President expressed his satisfaction and his commendation to the Filipino peacekeepers, who acted in a very courageous and determined manner; they kept their composure despite the pressure created by the attack of the Syrian rebel group. And the President, in asking for the report on this latest incident, would like some clearer policy perspectives in future deployments," he added.