Peacekeepers lauded for bravery, heroism in Golan Heights

FOR refusing to yield to the enemy forces who attacked them recently, an army general praised the group of Filipino soldiers who were deployed as United Nations (UN) peacekeepers manning two outposts in Golan Heights, an area bordering between Syria and Israel.

u201cIF I were the commander of the Filipino contingent of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Golan Heights, I will also do the same ‘not to surrender to Syrian rebels,’” the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division commander Major General Ricardo Visaya told Sun*Star in an interview Tuesday morning.

Visaya said, "wala yan sa bokabularyo ng Armed Forces of the Philippines ang mag-surrender. We will not surrender to our enemies (It is not in the vocabulary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to surrender).”

Probe UNDOF

u201cThe decision of the UN Disengagement Observer Force Commander Iqbal Sing Singha (an Indian national) ordering the UN Filipino contingent to surrender to the Syrian rebels is uncalled for. The UNDOF commander should instead reinforce his men than surrender. The UNDOF commander should be properly investigated,” Visaya added.

He said the UN Peacekeeping Force mission in Golan Heights is to help maintain peace and order, however, if provoked they must fight to defend themselves and the UNDOF facilities.

Visaya lauded the heroic and bravery of the Filipino soldiers who withstood and defended the UN facilities they were stationed at.

u201cYour presence there (Golan Heights) is useless if you will just surrender,” he added.

Defied

The 40 Filipino peacekeepers that escaped an imminent massacre at the Golan Heights early on Sunday defied an order from the United Nations ground commander to surrender their firearms, deciding instead to fight the Syrian rebels before fleeing their besieged camp, the military said Monday.

It was the decision of Capt. Nilo Ramones, the Filipino ground commander, to defy a valid order from the UNDOF commander to the peacekeepers to wave the white flag and surrender their weapons while negotiations for the release of 44 captured Fijian peacekeepers was ongoing.

Lieutenant Colonel Leomar Jose Doctolero, commanding officer of 15th Infantry Battalion based in Bagumbayan, Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, said, “I highly admire the bravery and the heroic act of the Filipino soldiers at Golan heights when they fight against the Syrian rebels and defend the UNDOF facilities.”

At least one Syrian rebel was killed and four others were wounded in the firefight between the Filipino soldiers.

Doctolero said, “some of the soldiers in Golan Heights who repelled the Syrian rebels were my former students in a training.”

Doctolero was once a commandant of UN Peacekeeping Force in South Sudan in Africa from 2011-2012.

Change of command

Meanwhile, Visaya will relinquish his post as his term as 4ID commander ends on September 10, in a change of command ceremony to be held at Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Barangay Patag, Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao from J3 (operations) will assume as the new 4ID commander.

However, in an earlier date, Visaya will assume as the incoming Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) chief to base in Lucena City on September 8 after Lieutenant General Cesar Ronnie Ordoyo will retire this month.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, commanding general of Eastern Mindanao command, will also relinquish his position in a ceremony on September 5 in Panacan, Davao City.

As planned, Major General Ernesto Baladad of the 3rd ID will assume his new position as EastMinCom chief, Visaya added.

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