Aquino wants full report on Golan standoff

Natashya Gutierrez

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Malacañang says a full report on the standoff between Filipino peacekeepers and Syrian rebels would guide policies and actions on future deployment
REPORT DEMANDED. President Benigno Aquino III wants a full report on the Golan Heights standoff between Filipino peacekeepers and Syrian rebels. File photo from AFP

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III wants to know exactly what happened in the Golan Heights that resulted in a standoff between Filipino peacekeepers and Syrian rebels, to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“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,” Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma told reporters on Tuesday, September 2.

Coloma also 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 said.

While Coloma said the review of the events “will be an ongoing study considering that there’s already an announced policy decision to complete the current engagements and tour of duty.”

PH commitment 

He emphasized that “the Philippines is committed to fulfill its commitment” to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), and that the Filipino peacekeepers will complete their tour of duty in the Golan Heights.

According to Coloma, the only other place with Filipino peacekeepers is in Liberia, and they too would complete their tour of duty by next month.

However, Coloma clarified no decision has been made on future deployments. The report on the Golan Heights standoff, he said, would be the basis of the decision.

On Thursday, August 28, Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front took Fijian peacekeepers hostage and, later surrounded encampments of Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights.

The rebels demanded them to surrender their firearms but the Philippine troops refused, triggering a standoff that was followed by a 7-hour heavy firefight on Saturday, August 30.

On Sunday, while the rebels were asleep, about 40 Filipino soldiers managed to escape and set up in another encampment. 

Aside from policies, the Palace official also said the report would provide a “clearer perspective” on whether or not the actions of UNDOF commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha, had indeed put the Filipino troops in danger.

The Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights defied the order of their overall commander, an Indian national, when they refused to surrender their firearms to Syrian rebels in the standoff, said the Philippine military. (READ: Inside Filipino troops’ ‘Greatest Escape’ in Golan)

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr was clearly disappointed with Singha, whose decisions he said put the lives of the peacekeepers in danger. He demanded an investigation into Singha.

Malacañang, however, said it would withhold comment on Singha’s reported actions pending a full report.

“Let’s take into account the fact that General Catapang was narrating the events as told to him by the ground commanders so there is need to understand all of those reports in perspective and in context,” Coloma said.

Praise from Binay

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay also commended the “courage and commitment” of the peacekeepers “to keep the peace in face of extreme danger,” and said the peacekeepers “did the right thing.”

“I think the situation warranted that they 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 in a statement.
He added, “They could also have been taken hostage like their counterparts from Fiji if they surrendered their arms.”

Binay also praised their AFP training as “what they did shows that our soldiers can think tactically even under the extreme pressure of heavy fire.” This, he said, “reflects well on their training in the AFP.”

There are currently more than 300 Filipino soldiers serving in a peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights. The incident happened as the Philippine government is finalizing the pullout of troops from Golan, citing the escalating internal conflict.

Last year, Syrian rebels also abducted two separate groups of Filipino peacekeepers. They were eventually released unharmed. – 

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Face, Happy, Head


Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.