Filipino peacekeepers commit no act of cowardice: military official
(The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2014 - 9:45pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - A senior military official today defended Filipino peacekeepers' "great escape " in Golan Heights against criticism from commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Interviewed by India Today, the UNDOF commander, Indian Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, said that the non-professional actions of the Filipino troops have endangered the lives of the Fijian soldiers.

He said the peacekeepers have defied orders at a time when they had negotiated a ceasefire with the rebels to ensure that all troops in the conflict area could exit.

In response to his criticism, Ramon Zagala, public affairs office chief of the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP), maintained that the actuation of the Filipino troops were not acts of cowardice. Rather, it was Singha who was acting as coward for ordering the troops to surrender their weapons and to raise the white flag.

"What we did there is we defended ourselves from attack," said Zagala while chastising Singha for not immediately taking actions to extricate those at Position 68.

"To endanger our troops unnecessarily is the act of cowardice. Ordering the troops, endangering them unnecessarily by surrendering firearms and raising the white flag, instead of repositioning them, I think that's the act of cowardice," said Zagala.

Zagala said the military is submitting a report to the Department of National Defense and to the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines a detailed report on the standoff.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, on the other hand, declined to comment on Singha's accusations that Filipino peacekeepers committed an act of cowardice during the Golan Heights standoff.

"We (AFP) decided that we should just keep our silence on further discussion about the incident. We have asked the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to reply to all queries about this unfortunate incident," Catapang said in a text message to reporters.

"We will just submit all the reports as directed by the president. After saving our troops from being massacred, the last thing we want to do is be involved in a blame game problem," the AFP chief added.

Col. James Ezra Enriquez, chief of staff of the UNDOF resigned his post after Filipino peacekeepers' standoff with the Syrian rebels. According to Catapang, Enriquez stepped down from his post due to difference with the UNDOF commander.

Catapang earlier sought an investigation against Singha for acts detrimental to the safety of Filipino peacekeepers when Syrian rebels surrounded their posts in Golan Heights Thursday last week.

Singha wanted the troops to surrender their firearms to secure the freedom of 44 Fijian peacekeepers, but the Filipino troops defied Singha's order.

Last Saturday, the rebels assaulted the Filipino peacekeepers on Positions 68 and 69. Those at Position 69 were able to extricate moments later while those at Position 68 fought the rebels for seven hours until a ceasefire was observed, according to Catapang.

Catapang said Singha ordered the Filipino peacekeepers to surrender again during the ceasefire.

The troops again defied the order and escaped while the rebels were asleep at 5 a.m. local time Sunday.

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