MANILA — The Filipino UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights did the right thing in refusing to surrender their firearms despite orders for them to do so, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said Tuesday.
“I think the situation warranted that they do not surrender their only means to defend themselves. A spoken guarantee of safe passage is simply not enough assurance, given that it was their own lives at stake,” Binay said.
“They could also have been taken hostage like their counterparts from Fiji if they surrendered their arms,” he added.
The 40 Filipino peacekeepers disobeyed a supposed order by United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha to surrender their arms in a standoff with Syrian rebels last week.
“I commend their courage and commitment to keep the peace in the face of extreme danger,” Binay said of the troops who escaped their two encampments in Positions 68 and 69 that were under siege by the rebels.
“What they did shows that our soldiers can think tactically even under the extreme pressure of heavy fire. That they can think on their feet and make tactical decisions reflects well on their training in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” the Vice President said.
The Vice President also thanked the Israeli and Syrian governments for supporting the troops during the siege, which was initiated by non-state actors on Thursday as they took 44 Fijian peacekeepers hostage.
He also expressed hope that the Fijian peacekeepers be released soon.
Over 300 Filipino soldiers are part of the peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights. The troops in UN posts located at the Syrian side of the Golan have already evacuated. A UN post in Position 80, located in the Israel side of the border, is still being manned by the Filipino troops. The rest have relocated to the UNDOF Headquarters or to the Philippine Battalion headquarters in Camp Ziouni.