Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan today said spokespersons and commanding officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command should be made to answer for what she dubbed as the EastMinCom’s brazen and malicious distortion of statements made by Dr. Chaloka Beyani, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.
“In a very desperate attempt to justify and support their allegations that the Lumads now seeking sanctuary in Haran were trafficked by progressive and militant groups, the EastMinCom now resorts to spreading lies,” said Ilagan.
In press releases signed by Col. Eduardo Gubat and Capt. Alberto Caber, the Eastern Mindanao Command quotes Dr. Beyani to have said that the Lumads in Haran were manipulated. “This is a grievous diplomatic faux-pas that puts the Philippine government which invited Dr. Beyani in an awkward and embarrassing situation”
The EastMinCom Press release reads:
“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 Cheloka 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 risked 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.
Graham Fox, media liaison for Dr. Beyani has affirmed that the AFP’s statement was a gross misrepresentation of the position taken by Dr. Beyani and stated in his report:
“I travelled to Davao to consult the national and local authorities and the indigenous peoples themselves on this situation. I heard from the AFP its assertion that it is seeking to protect the communities and provide services to them in conflict regions; however the displaced IPs made it clear that it is their presence and that of the paramilitary groups in their communities that continues to create anxiety amongst the indigenous communities. The community wishes to return to its lands but stressed to me that they will only feel safe to do so if the long-term militarization of their region comes to an end and they can return with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection. They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the on-going conflict between the AFP and the NPA.”
“The Philippine government has long been criticized in international forums for its failure to meet standards in the recognition and protection of human rights. This recent incident now affirms all allegations against the Aquino government and places an indelible mark on the Aquino government as a human rights violator,” Ilagan concluded.
Posted By: Lynne Pingoy