Catapang gets promotion

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014


ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang is set to receive a promotion for guiding the Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights to safety, dubbed as the "great escape".

On Wednesday, the Commission on Appointment (CA) committee on national defense unanimously voted for Catapang's promotion as general.

Currently, Catapang is a lieutenant general in the AFP.

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The CA approved the giving of another star on Catapang citing his ability to provide command to his men in the fulfillment of the national interest and for their safety on top of all.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said he will file a resolution in the House of Representatives to commend Catapang and the 40 Filipino peacekeepers who pulled a daring escape from an area controlled by Syrian rebels for a "job well done."

He said the Filipino troops showed the country and the whole world an extra-ordinary courage by not giving in to the rebel's demands, particularly the surrender of their weapons although they were surrounded by the anti-government armed elements and their own lives and safety were already at risk.

On August 28, a tension escalated after Syrian rebels entered the United Nation-patrolled buffer zone between Syria and Israel and captured 44 Fijian peacekeepers and demanding the surrender of Filipino peacekeepers.

The Filipino contingent who were part of the United Nation Disengagement Observer Force (Undof), however, refused to surrender although they were already cornered by the rebels, leading to a four-day standoff.

The first group, which consists of 35 Filipino peacekeepers stationed at Position 69 was rescued by Irish and Filipino forces while the second group with 40 soldiers held their ground at Position 68 and kept about 100 Syrian rebels at bay.

On August 30, under the cover of darkness and while the attackers were asleep, the Filipino peacekeepers implemented their escape plan wherein they had to walk for almost two hours to get to a safer zone.

They are now safely repositioned to Camp Ziuoani located behind the UN lines.

As reported, the 40 Filipino contingent pushed through with their own plan which was later on tagged as the "greatest escape" even though the Undof commander, Sing Singha, already instructed them to surrender their arms.

Catapang said they "really disobeyed the orders of Singha" since it is part of the rules of the engagement between the AFP and the Undof that they will keep their weapons intact.

"When we were already surrounded by the rebels, ISIS, the Undof commander told us to negotiate with the rebels. And it is also our national policy not to negotiate with terrorists because that group is a terrorist organization so it really enforces our decision not to surrender," Catapang said.

Catapang confide other concerned agency such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Malacanang Palace regarding their complaints over the actions taken by Singha which seemingly brought the Filipino troops at risk of being abducted or killed.

Despite the incident, the Filipino peacekeepers will stay until the end of their peacekeeping mission on October 2014, in fulfillment of the country's commitment to international security. (Sunnex)

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