Officials Support Gov't Decision to Recall Troops

Manila Bulletin, July 16, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Officials Support Gov't Decision to Recall Troops


Byline: MARIO B. CASAYURAN

Senators led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan yesterday threw their support behind President Arroyos decision for a gradual pullout from Iraq of the countrys 51man peacekeeping force, saying it is consistent with the overall national interest.

Drilon explains that the pullout decision would not have a negative impact on the global war against terrorism. "I would view our engagement in Iraq as our contribution to the war against terrorism."

The US had expressed its disappointment over the Philippines sudden decision to pull out its troops after the Iraqi captors of Angelo de la Cruz threatened to behead him if the Philippine government refuses to withdraw its military contingent.

But prior to this and when the Philippine government initially decided not to give in to the Iraqi demands, the US government had publicly praised the latter for its stand.

Drilon was even quoted then as saying "to give in to the terrorist groups at this time could place our government position in jeopardy not only in Iraq but also the rest of the world."

"You must remember that we face regularly hostage situations in Mindanao. We have to have a consistent policy," he added.

While the Philippines only has "a small humanitarian mission in Iraq," the US and its other coalition partners should understand we have a million unarmed civilian overseas workers in the Middle East and this makes our interest as a nation very different from that of the US and other Western nations, according to Pangilinan.

"I am certain if the US had a million citizens in the Middle East, their policy in Iraq would be different. The US should understand our predicament as an ally, and respect our decision. We support the decision to pull out the troops as consistent with the overall national interest," Pangilinan added.

Asked whether the pullout decision might lead to a break up of the coalition against terrorism, Drilon said the Philippines relationship with the US is based on mutual respect.

"I am confident this mutual respect will be maintained if the US would understand that the President had to take action on this on the manner."

Drilon added the decision to withdraw would not set a bad precedent.

"This is judgment call on the part of the President, making a decision on what she believes is for the national interest. No foreign policy is altruistic in nature. All foreign policies regardless of which country, are always for the interest of a nation. It is to the interest of the nation that the President decided the way she decided. The best way for us is to rally behind that."

Solons laud decision

Multi-partisan lawmakers yesterday rallied behind the Arroyo governments decision to enforce an earlier pullout of its troops from Iraq as they stressed the country cannot be faulted for trying to save Angelo de la Cruz.

Solons led by Lakas- CMD Reps. Prospero Pichay Jr. of Surigao del Sur, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipinos Jacinto Paras of Negros Occidental, Nationalist Peoples Coalition-Kampis Rodito Albano of Isabela and Liberal Partys Nereus Acosta of Bukidnon supported the early withdrawal of the countys humanitarian mission.

Pichay said the Arroyo government did the right thing to try to save the life of De la Cruz , an innocent overseas Filipino worker (OFW) similar to the 1.4 million estimated Filipinos in the Middle East.

Paras, a senior opposition member, also lauded the Arroyo governments decision to pull out early, saying that since the start, the opposition had strongly opposed sending forces to Iraq.

Albano said Arroyo has shown decisiveness and toughness amid a possible backlash from the US. He called for public understanding and support for the pullout decision which also shows the countrys respect for the independence of Iraq as a nation.

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