Subject: DFA: Dili has no authority over Philippine peacekeepers

The Daily Tribune (Manila)

DFA: Dili has no authority over RP peacekeepers

By Michaela P. del Callar


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday said the Philippines is answerable only to the United Nations, not to the East Timor government, after a Timorese parliamen-tarian criticized the credibility of the Philippine police force and demanded the removal of one of its police peace-keeping officer.

At the same time, the DFA stressed it has asked the Philippine Embassy in Dili to look into the state-ments made by Fretilin, one of East Timor's major political groups.

"We are there as a member of the UN peace-keeping force. We are an-swerable to the UN, not to the East Timor government. We will see first the circums-tance (before taking any action). However, we don't take it (Fretilin statement) as a view of the East Timor

East Timor government," DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal said.

Fretilin Parliamentarian Jose Teixeira branded the Philippine National Police (PNP) as "notoriously corrupt" with a reputation for brutality and asked for the recall of Joel Doria, head of the Comoro police post of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.

Fretilin was furious over the Aug. 6, 2007 Time Magazine article quoting Doria as saying the party was involved in organizing violence in East Timor following the announcement of former resistance fighter Xanana Gusmao as prime minister late July.

"Mr. Doria's comments and behavior are irresponsible. We expect members of the UN police to exercise a duty of care when discharging their duties and act as an example to the National Police of Timor-Leste, which the UN is helping to rebuild," Teixeira noted.

"The Philippines police force is notoriously corrupt and politically partisan with a reputation for brutality. Timorese do not want Philippines police's practices imported to this country," he added.

Cristobal, however, maintained the Fretilin statement will not erode the credibility of the 145 Filipino peacekeepers in East Timor.

"I can say our police there have had a pretty good performance. They were awarded the UN service medal precisely because of their contribution," he said.

The DFA official added Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Timor-Leste Atul Khare praised the professionalism and competence of the Filipino UN police in ensuring the peaceful and orderly conduct of Timor-Leste's first three elections.

"Mr. Khare also thanked them for their invaluable contribution in helping democracy take root in the young nation," Cristobal said.

The tour of duty of the Philippine contingent will end on Oct. 16.

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