One of 4 trapped Pinoy peacekeepers rescued

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2010 08:38 AM | Updated as of Jan 15 2010 12:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - One of the 4 Filipino peacekeepers trapped in a collapsed building in the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti has been rescued, a Philippie military spokesperson said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, said Army Corporal David Catacutan was rescued from the collapsed Montana Hotel, which is being used by United Nations workers in Port-au-Prince.

Brawner told abs-cbnNEWS.com that Catacutan was recovered by fellow Filipino peacekeepers around 11:30 a.m. Manila time. He said the Army corporal suffered minor bruises and is now at the Philippine peacekeeping force's barracks for medical treatment.

The military spokesperson said that they have yet to receive word on the condition of 3 other Filipino peacekeepers trapped in the United Nations Stabilization Mission Headquarters. The three were Army Sergeant Eustacio Bermudez, Air Force Sergeant Janice Arocena and Navy Petty Officer 3 Panagui Pearlie

Meanwhile, police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina told ANC's Dateline Philippines that all 15 policemen, who are also members of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Haiti, are safe and are now helping in search and rescue efforts in the quake-hit country.

Brawner earlier told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda that the names of the 4 Filipino peacekeepers were provided by the commander of the Philippine military's peacekeeping contingent, Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy, through a satellite phone call Wednesday night.

"We are hoping that they are still alive. They are only considered missing. Other [Filipino] peacekeepers are conducting search and rescue operations," Brawner said.

He said Dagoy has confirmed that all the other members of the Philippine peacekeeping force are safe. The Philippine peacekeeping force in Haiti is composed of 155 soldiers, 2 military observers and 15 policemen.

Brawner said relatives of the 4 peacekeepers have been informed of their situation.

He said the 4 could have been working overtime because the earthquake struck after office hours.

He said the whole Philippine peacekeeping contingent was supposed to return to the Philippines on February after a six-month tour of duty in Haiti.

"They left August of last year. They were supposed to come home February," the military spokesman said.

Brawner said the Philippines is receiving information about the Filipinos' situation in Haiti through Dagoy's satellite phone and e-mails. He said Dagoy has been trying to save the phone's battery charge because communication and power lines in the poor Caribbean nation were still cut off.

Meanwhile, Father John Brillantes, assistant secretary of the Apostolic Nunciateur, reported that Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Auza is "alive and well and also the people working with him though there was great destruction in the country."

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said that the Philippine Embassy in Havanna, which has jurisdiction over Haiti, has prepared a consular team that would be immediately deployed to the calamity-stricken nation "at the first opportunity."

"We have not received confirmation of all the Filipinos' real situation at this time," Conejos said, adding that aside from the 172 peacekeepers, there are 447 more Filipinos working in Haiti.

He said the other Philippine teams could not enter Haiti because its international airport was also affected by the devastating earthquake.

Trapped, but accounted for

As of noon Thursday, Brawner told abs-cbnNEWS.com said that they have yet to receive a word about the real condition of the 4 trapped peacekeepers.

Elmer Cato, first secretary and press officer of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations, said in a statement that members of the Philippine peacekeeping force, including the 4 trapped peacekeepers, have all been accounted for.

The statement said that based on a report by Ambassador Hilario Davide, permanent representative to the United Nations, only one Filipino peacekeeper sustained injuries after the strong quake.

Meanwhile, the statement said that Davide has expressed concern over the fate of an undetermined number of UN staff members from the Philippines, who were also trapped in the collapsed UN headquarters.

Davide has also said that there was still no way of checking the condition of the 447 Filipino civilians, who are missionaries and employed in garments, power and telecommunications companies in Haiti.