By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes the Philippines should not take sides in the ongoing tension between the United States and Iran.
Sotto, in a radio interview Saturday, said it would be best for the country to stay neutral as the U.S. and Iran continue to clash following the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, last Jan. 3.
The attack caused Tehran to retaliate by launching ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq. This move by Iran prompted the Philippine government to order a forced evacuation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Iraq.
As the tension escalated, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo declared that President Duterte will side with the U.S. if OFWs are harmed in the hostilities.
But Sotto said the government should rethink its position.
“Ako, tingin ko, dapat maging neutral na lang muna tayo. Sinabi ng presidente kakampi siya sa U.S. kung may masasaktan na Pinoy ang Iran. Eh, ang tanong: Kung may masasaktan na OFW ang U.S., kakampihan pa rin natin ang U.S.? Hindi, ‘di ba? So neutral na lang dapat tayo,” he told DWIZ.
(I think we should stay neutral in the meantime. The president said that he will take the U.S.’ side if Filipinos are harmed by Iran. But the question is: What if the U.S. hurts our OFWs, will we still take their side? I don’t think so. So we should stay neutral.)
Duterte was reported as saying on Tuesday that he still does not want to be involved in the conflict between the U.S. and Iran.
The Philippines is a known ally of the U.S. The two nations signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951 stipulating that they will support each other if either of them is threatened by an external armed attack.