SENATOR Miriam Santiago wants a probe on the alleged involvement of the military in the displacement of around 700 indigenous peoples from Bukidnon and Davao del Norte provinces.
This came only hours after United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of the internally displaced persons, Dr. Chaloka Beyani, lambasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines for twisting a statement where he supposedly have said that the IPs were manipulated, apart from being victims of kidnapping and trafficking.
The searing statement of Beyani prompted the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, Col. Eduardo B. Gubat, to vacate his post. Before this, Gubat told a local radio station that he was standing by the story released by his office and challenged Beyani to personally belie it.
On Thursday morning, Beyani the comments attributed to him by the military was “incorrect, unacceptable and a gross distortion of my views.”
“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.
Beyani, who taught International Law and Human Rights at the Universities of Zambia, Oxford, and the London School of Economics, said his comment on the IPs being manipulated was in reference to “the attempt to forcibly move them out of the UCCP facility without proper and adequate consultation with them.”
In a statement, Gubat apologized to Beyani and said the “effect of the statement was not intentional.”
But he added: “However, the Eastern Mindanao Command maintains that Dr. Beyani in his exit briefing described 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.”
Meanwhile, Santiago has called on the Senate to conduct an investigation.
“The military is in bad faith if indeed it is twisting the report of the UN special rapporteur to spread false information about the situation in Davao City,” she said in a press statement.
She said lawmakers must not “ignore the plight of indigenous peoples (IPs), who are the ultimate victims of skirmishes between the military and rebels.”
“What is more alarming is that now we are being told that the military or their operatives are the ones terrorizing these communities,” she said.
Santiago wants to know whether the displacement of the IPs has been brought by the presence of the soldiers and the militia Alamara in their communities or the communist rebels.
“The Senate must investigate allegations that the military perpetuates the operations of paramilitary groups, whose activities displace and destroy communities not only in Mindanao, but also in other parts of the country,” Santiago said.
In June, Santiago, who is currently on medical leave because of lung cancer, proposed Senate Resolution No. 1392, which called for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the reported closure of Lumad schools in Davao del Norte. | JMT, NewsDesk