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10 August 2005

The American dream may have been too much of a magnet for two Filipino peacekeepers who failed to return to duty in Haiti after a rest break in the United States.

“It is dreadful to note that two of our peacekeepers have turned into illegal economic migrants,” Colonel Daniel Lucero, the former commander of the Philippine contingent in Haiti, told reporters in Manila on Wednesday.

The United States is home to about 3 million Filipinos who left their country in search of a better life.

Lucero said the Philippine army had “taken steps to arrest the two deserters,” who disappeared during two weeks of leave in Florida in April.

Earlier that month, a Filipino sergeant was killed in an attack on a United Nations peacekeeping checkpoint in the impoverished Cite Soleil neighborhood, one of Haiti’s most dangerous areas.

The Philippines sent a 135-member peacekeeping team to Haiti in December 2004 to help U.N. forces curb political unrest ahead of elections later this year.

Last month, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she would send another 200 Philippine troops to Haiti to join nearly 4,000 Brazilian-led peacekeepers after the president of the Caribbean island, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted last year.

Lucero said the army would seek to have the passports of the two missing soldiers canceled and ask U.S. authorities to find and deport them to face a military trial.

“They have given an awful name to our mission in Haiti,” he said.

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