AFP apologizes to UN Special Rapporteur, officer resigns

By Inday Espina Varona,

Posted at Aug 13 2015 03:23 PM | Updated as of Aug 14 2015 01:24 AM

MANILA - The head of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has accepted the resignation of its spokesperson, Col. Eduardo B Gubat.

Gubat announced this in a press statement that also apologized to UN Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani.

"This pertains to the press release dated 07 August 2015 entitled 'Lumad in Haran are Manipulated: Not Evacuees but Victims of Trafficking.' 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 Cheloka Beyani," the statement said.

"The effect of the statement was not intentional. I, the Spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, Colonel Eduardo B Gubat INF (GSC) PA, humbly apologizes to UN Rapporteur Cheloka Beyani for such oversight and for the inconvenience it has brought to the UN Rapporteur. By reason of such statement, Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad, AFP, Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP has approved of my resignation as spokesperson."

The announcement came hours after Beyani sent Philippine journalists a personal statement, accusing the AFP of "incorrect, unacceptable, and represents a gross distortion of my views." The UN official's statement followed the EastMinCom's release that claimed Beyani said lumad evacuees in Davao City are victims of "human trafficking."

The AFP used one quote by Beyani to bolster its standing claim that church and militant groups were forcibly keeping lumad from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon at the Haran sanctuary of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines. It quoted Beyani as saying the lumad had been manipulated by rights groups.

Despite the apology, the military statement states: "However, the Eastern Mindanao Command maintains that Dr. Beyani in his exit briefing described that the Indigenous People in Haran are manipulated. "

Beyani's latest statement says: : 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 was referring to the July 23 "rescue" attempt by North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, who brought along more than 500 cops, troops and paramilitary forces. Fifteen lumad and church workers and four cops were injured before Davao City officials intervened and restored peace

The EastMinCon said it takes the UN official's remarks "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."