Aquino: 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers detained in Syria expected to be released today

By
March 07 2013
ASSURANCE.  President Benigno Aquino III assures the public that the 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers detained by the Syrian rebels will be released Thursday.  The peacekeepers were deployed in the Golan Heights to “preserve the peace between Syria and Israel,”   Aquino said in a press conference at the SMX Lanang Convention Center in Davao City.  (davaotoday.com photo by Medel V. Hernani

ASSURANCE. President Benigno Aquino III assures the public that the 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers detained by the Syrian rebels will be released Thursday. The peacekeepers were deployed in the Golan Heights to “preserve the peace between Syria and Israel,” Aquino said in a press conference at the SMX Lanang Convention Center in Davao City. (davaotoday.com photo by Medel V. Hernani

With the capture, Aquino said he had tasked the AFP to reassess if the country can still afford to send a number of people, by the thousands, for the deployments everywhere in the world.

By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III announced the pending release today of 21 Filipino peacekeepers — three officers and 18 enlisted personnel — who have been detained in Syria Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference at the SMX Lanang Convention Center, Aquino said “(t)he present commander of Syrian forces is negotiating right now.  By tomorrow they expect for the 21 (peacekeepers) to be released.  Tomorrow means probably later today (in the Philippines).”

The 21 peacekeepers were part of the United Nations contingent deployed in the Golan Heights in Syria to “preserve the peace between Syria and Israel,” when they were flagged down and captured by 30 Syrian rebels in the Golan exit.

As part of the UN contingent, the 21 Filipinos “would be looked up as a benign presence.  We don’t expect for any untoward incident to happen,” Aquino said.

With the capture, Aquino said he had tasked the AFP to reassess if the country can still afford to send a number of people, by the thousands, for the deployments everywhere in the world.

Dangerous incursions of Filipinos, at the behest of the United States and United Nations under the cloak of peacekeeping missions, have also been done in Haiti, East Timor and Cambodia.

“I’m still waiting for the result of that study.  Meron naman tayong obligasyon na makatulong mag-enhance ng world peace pero meron din naman tayong pansariling interest.  Kailangan lang sigurong pagtugmain nang hindi napapabayaan ang alinmang ditong obligasyon,” Aquino said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) condemned the capture saying that “the apprehension and illegal detention of the Filipino peacekeepers are gross violations of international law.”

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a statement, said the detained Filipinos are international personnel clothed with immunity and mantle of protection similar to diplomatic agents and personnel.  “These rights are inviolable and their transgression is punishable under international law,” he added invoking Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel.

UN Secretary Generel Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council also condemned the detention of the peacekeepers saying the 21 are from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that monitors the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel following the 1973 war.  The Security Council extended the mission’s mandate for another six months, from December last year until 30 June 2013.

“The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel,” said Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia in the same statement.  (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

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