Administration and opposition lawmakers yesterday advised President Benigno S. Aquino III to reject any call from United States President Barack Obama for help in punishing Syria for allegedly launching last week’s gas attack that killed over 1,200 suspected enemies of the Syrian government, many of them children.
Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT party-list), Leopoldo Bataoil (LP, Pangasinan), and Tupay Loong (NP, Sulu) said the Philippines must adopt a neutral position as the Obama government appeared determined at launching air strikes at forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Obama has sought the approval of the US Congress in launching punitive military strike against the Al Assad government for using the nerve gas sarin in nearby Damascus where opposition to his administration is strong.
Wary that the Obama government might seek the support of its allies like the Philippines, congressmen said the Aquino government must distance itself from the US if it will push through with its threat against Syria. “We expect PNoy to do the right thing which is to condemn and oppose any planned US armed intervention in Syria,” said Tinio.
On the other hand, Loong said government must consider the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East before making any decision.
“Philippines should adopt neutral attitude in the interest of our OFWs,” said Loong, chairman of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs.
On the other hand, Bataoil, a former police general, said government must limit its participation in the escalation of war in the Middle East by helping the United Nations and the International Red Cross provide medical assistance.
“Staying is the best position Philippine must take. We can involve ourselves but only in providing humanitarian aid to those who will need it,” said Bataoil.
Lawmakers agree that there is a chance that Obama might ask Philippines to join its cause against the Al Assad government as an act of reciprocity towards US apparent move to back the Aquino administration in its territorial dispute with China.
A member of the House minority bloc, Tinio has been very outspoken against the Americans taking a bigger role for military cooperation as Philippines continues to complain against China’s bullying tactics over the West Philippine Sea territorial issue. (Ben R. Rosario)