NUJP slams promotion of Army colonel
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has questioned the promotion of an Army colonel who had rejected a request to provide a military escort for the 58 people, including 32 journalists and other media workers, who were killed in the Maguindanao massacre nearly five years ago.
Rowena Paraan, NUJP chair, said in an e-mailed statement that the promotion of Colonel Medardo Geslani to brigadier general was an insult to the memory of the victims, whose families are still looking for justice, 55 months after the worst election-related violence blamed on the Ampatuan clan and 200 of their armed men.
“This is the second time that an Army officer, whose inaction allowed the massacre to happen, has been promoted,” Paraan said.
Geslani, commander of the 601st Brigade with jurisdiction over the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao at the time of the massacre, had denied a request by then Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan, who is now governor of Maguindanao, for security escorts for a convoy of women and journalists, which was to file his certificate of candidacy on that day.
Mangudadatu lost his wife and sister in the bloodbath.
Geslani’s “failure, or more accurately, refusal to act on a request from Mangudadatu for security escorts for the convoy, may have sealed the fate of the Ampatuan 58,” Paraan said, referring to the victims by the name of the municipality where the massacre took place. She said that aside from his refusal to provide security escorts, Geslani also knew that scores of gunmen had stopped the convoy in Barangay Salman and led it toward the hinterland of Ampatuan followed by a backhoe that was eventually used to bury the victims in a mass grave.
Before Geslani, Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, was promoted to lieutenant general before he retired. On the day of the massacre, Cayton assured the journalists who perished in the massacre that it was perfectly safe to travel from Buluan to Shariff Aguak, Paraan said.
“It boggles the mind how the Army, which never ceases to boast of its intelligence prowess, could have missed the fact that three days before the massacre, Maguindanao police and members of the Ampatuan clan’s private militia had already set up checkpoints on the highway leading to the provincial capital,” Paraan said. “Or that as early as then, word was spreading like wildfire that the family that ruled Maguindanao had vowed never to allow Mangudadatu to run against their own.”
Before his promotion, Geslani served as deputy commander of the Tradition and Doctrine Command (Tradoc) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.
He is the latest member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandigan” Class of 1982 to join the new batch of newly promoted generals.
“For Benigno Aquino III to approve Geslani’s promotion is yet another betrayal of his promise to make justice and human rights the cornerstone of his presidency,” Paraan said. “It shows quite clearly President Aquino’s commitment to ensure justice for the Ampatuan 58.He could not even get the number of media victims right.”
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