Court to hand down Maguindanao massacre ruling on Dec. 19

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The decision on the decade-old case of Maguindanao massacre trial is expected to be released this month.

Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 issued an order on Friday, Nov. 29 announcing that the ruling for the multiple murder charges against over 100 suspects – including members of the Ampatuan clan – will be promulgated on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9 a.m.

The court proceedings will be held at the Quezon City Jail Annex at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The promulgation is set a day earlier than the non-extendible deadline given by the Supreme Court to Reyes to issue a decision on the Maguindanao massacre, which is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

The gruesome incident that occurred on Nov. 23, 2009 left 58 people dead, including 32 media personnel, some members of the Mangudadatu family and several civilians.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

Of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges, 101 were put on trial and could face sentencing soon.

Under the rules, Judge Reyes is required to resolve the cases on or before Nov. 20 or 90 days after these were submitted for resolution last August.

But Reyes submitted a plea to the Supreme Court, requesting for a 30-day extension.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed confidence that the Court will dispense justice “even-handedly and with utmost respect for the rule of law” in the forthcoming decision on the case.

“I am glad we have finally reached the day of reckoning. The prosecution had presented nearly 200 witnesses and the defense over a hundred during an intense trial that lasted several years” Guevarra said.

“We thank the judge for her patience and diligence,” he added. — RRD (with a report from Correspondent Mai Bermudez)

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