PH ready to face UN probe over 'greatest escape'
MANILA - The Philippine military is ready to face any investigation of the United Nations over the daring escape of Filipino peacekeepers trapped by Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, AFP chief of staff Gregorio Catapang said he consulted Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario about his decision to countermand the order of the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which employs the Filipino troops, that they surrender their firearms once the Syrian rebels attack.
He said he is confident the Philippines did not commit any misconduct in allowing their soldiers to stage their escape.
"Sabi [ni Del Rosario]: 'Our national interest is paramount so we can overrule the order. Sa tingin ko, given the explanation of our honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs wala tayong nilabag ng kautusan," he said.
Catapang earlier praised the F40 ilipino peacekeepers who fled on foot out of position 68 at the Golan Heights after fighting the Syrian rebels.
Captain Nilo Ramones said he and other peacekeepers walked through a landmine-infested area in the dead of night to reach a safe zone. The soldiers are already at the Philippine contingent headquarters in Camp Ziouani.
The military chief has justified the need to defy the UNDOF order, saying that the Philippine contingent would "look like a laughingstock to the entire world if we surrender our firearms."
"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.
Catapang said President Aquino has instructed the military to produce a detailed report of what happened.
That report will form the basis for the Palace's future actions in connection with the incident.
"Bahala na po yung United Nations kung magco-conduct sila ng imbestigasyon. Ang sa atin lang po pinroteksyunan natin ang ating mga sundalo," he said.
"The instruction of the President is to submit a blow-by-blow and honest-to-goodness report of what transpired. From that point, the President will be the one to decide if there is a need to look into what happened in the Golan Heights," he added.