The PJ Tatler

UN Orders Filipino Troops to Surrender to Syrian Rebels. But They have a Better Idea.

Last week, al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels from the Nusra Front attacked and surrounded a group of 40 Filipino troops operating in the Golan Heights under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping mission there.

The UN was negotiation with the Islamists over the fate of 45 troops from Fiji, who the rebels had captured. The Fijians were captured when the Islamists attacked them, and they surrendered their weapons.

The UN seems to have had a plan that wasn’t really much of a plan — let the Islamists capture the Filipinos in exchange for the Fijians.

The Filipino commander, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, wasn’t interested in that plan.

When the besieged Filipino troops sought his advice after they were ordered to lay down their arms as part of an arrangement with the rebels to secure the Fijians’ release, Catapang said he asked them to defy the order.

“I told them not to follow the order because that is a violation of our regulation, that we do not surrender our firearms, and, at the same time, there is no assurance that you will be safe after you give your firearms,” Catapang said.

“Our stand is, we will not allow our soldiers to become sacrificial pawns in order to save the Fijians,” Catapang told The Associated Press. “They should look for other ways and means to save the Fijians.”

UNDOF did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Catapang said an investigation would allow the UNDOF commander to explain his side and the Philippine military to explain why it advised the Filipino peacekeepers to defy his order.

The Filipino troops fought the rebels on Saturday, and were eventually helped out of the siege.

Now the Philippines say they won’t send any new troops to support the UN mission when the current troops’ term expires. Why would any country join up in that mission, after the UN ordered the Filipino troops to hand themselves over to al Qaeda-linked rebels?