AFP officer apologizes for ‘distortion’ of UN rapporteur views
Video by Frances Mangosing/INQUIRER.net
A REGIONAL military spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has resigned and apologized after United Nations Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani accused the military of “incorrect, unacceptable and…gross distortion of my views” on the condition of hundreds of Lumad who have sought shelter at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City.
Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Colonel Eduardo Gubat, in a statement on Thursday, said that he “humbly apologizes to UN Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani for such oversight and the inconvenience it has brought to the UN Rapporteur.”
“The description of Haran Lumads as trafficked persons was the assessment of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command and not of the UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani. The effect of the statement was not intentional,” Gubat said.
Because of the incident, Gubat said he has filed his resignation and his commander, Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, has accepted.
He still maintained, however, that Beyani said in his exit briefing that the indigenous people in Haran are “manipulated.”
“The Command takes the said observation constructively as guide in pursuing its mandate of protecting the Indigenous Peoples from the manipulation of unscrupulous individuals and organizations and help alleviate their sufferings and achieve the self-determination they are working for,” he said.
Part of the news release through the Eastmincom over the weekend said:
“Members of Indigenous People (IP) inside the compound of United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) in Haran, Davao City are manipulated, not evacuees but victims of trafficking.”
“This was based on the assessment made by United Nation (UN) Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani during the exit brief at the Operations Center of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in Camp Aguinaldo.”
“‘When we asked them about the circumstances in which why they left their areas they say they were at risk at force recruitment into Alamara and the movements to that area was in protest in relation to the presence of Alamara, so they wanted to make a point that that was what happened. But I have been there for some time, I think they got manipulated,” Beyani said.
The AFP leadership, meanwhile, was also apologetic over the incident.
“It is unfortunate that a misunderstanding of this nature occurred, one which we wish to avoid in the future. The chief of staff of the Armed Forces, General Hernando Iriberri, has given specific instructions to the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command to take appropriate action to address the singular incident,” said AFP spokesperson Colonel Restituto Padilla in a news briefing.
“We support the UN Special Rapporteur in his advocacy to look into the welfare of internally displaced persons, and we are happy to know that we find common ground with Dr. Beyani regarding this matter. We wish everyone to look past this incident and work together with us and the government to resolve the situation; and return the IPs back to their homes,” he added.
When Beyani finally broke his silence on Thursday, he said the news release Eastmincom carried was “incorrect.”
“Let me be absolutely clear, the indigenous persons in Davao are not victims of human trafficking. I was explicit in my discussions with the senior AFP representatives on multiple occasions, and indeed at my Press Conference that the indigenous persons concerned should under no circumstances be considered to fall into the category of trafficked persons,” he said.
“The indigenous peoples whom I interviewed informed me that they relocated to this facility freely and in response to the militarization of their lands and territories and forced recruitment into paramilitary groups operating under the auspices of the AFP. My reference to their being ‘manipulated’ related to the attempt to forcibly move them out of the UCCP facility without proper and adequate consultation with them,” he added.