Philippines army leader promoted despite negligence over Ampatuan Massacre

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in bringing into question the reported promotion of an Army Colonel to Brigadier General after his questionable role in the Ampatuan Massacre – the single largest massacre of journalists in history. Global media will mark the fifth anniversary of the slaughter next month on November 23.

Army Colonel Medardo Geslani who is said to be promoted to Brigadier General was, along with then-Major General Alfredo Cayton, among those whose help was sought to provide security to Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and his convoy before it was attacked and 57 people, including 31 journalists lost their lives. Their support was requested due to very serious threats of violence that had been made in the days prior. These requests were ignored.

In a statement from NUJP Chairperson Rowena Paraan: “It is also a fact that an Army intelligence unit that had actually witnessed the convoy being stopped and then taken to the killing grounds in Sitio Masalay. The unit had been reporting back to Geslani's headquarters as events developed. It is clear from all these that there is no way he can claim ignorance and that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that he, too, had a degree of involvement in the Ampatuan massacre.”

The NUJP said “sadly but not surprisingly, a military investigation cleared Geslani and Cayton”. In fact, Cayton was later promoted to lieutenant general and has since retired.

“We would also like to point out that, only around two months before the massacre, a convoy of 50 journalists covering the mass evacuations caused by the fighting in Maguindanao at the time were summarily detained at a military outpost in the province,” Paraan said. “When the journalists asked why they were being prevented from traveling freely and performing their duties, the soldiers told them they were ordered by their commander, who happened to be Geslani, to stop specifically the media. Officers such as Geslani are not only a disgrace to the service and their uniform but are clearly a threat to our freedoms.”

IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, this latest incident makes a mockery of the country’s military system and meanwhile the slow wheels of justice continue to deny the victim’s families closure and show the Philippines to be a hotbed of impunity”

Under the administration of President Aquino, 29 journalists have been murdered, and just six suspects in six cases have been arrested. To date, none of the accused in the 2009 massacre have been found guilty of their crimes.

The IFJ launches its annual Impunity campaign on November 2 and will call on country leaders including President Aquino to act on journalist impunity and improve the safety of journalists.  

        For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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