DECEMBER 2, 2019 – The local trial court hearing the celebrated Maguindanao massacre, which put the country as the most dangerous place for journalists in 2009, is expected to hand down a verdict on more than a hundred people, including a former powerful political clan in the south, within two weeks.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regonal Trial Court, has signed on order setting the verdict to be read on December 19 at Camp Bagong Diwa in Tagig where the accused are held for more than 10 years.
Fifty-eight people, including 32 journalists and other media workers, were killed on Nov 23, 2009 after they were stopped at a checkpoint in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. They were all shot dead and the killers tried to hide the crime by burying them, including their vehicles, in shallow pit in a nearby hill.
Six of the victims were not part of the convoy led by the wife a politician challenging the powerful Ampatuan clan who are in power for years in Maguindanao province.
The court was supposed to issue a verdict days before the 10th anniversary of the massacre, but the judge requested for a 30-day extension.
The Supreme Court earlier in November approved the request of Solis-Reyes for more time to resolve the case submitted for decision on August 22.
Families have expected an earlier ruling since under the court rules, the judge is given 90 days to decide after the termination of trial.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, however, noted the Maguindanao massacre has too many victims and 197 co-accused.
The massacre was considered the single deadliest recorded attack on the media worldwide and the worst election-related case of violence in Philippine history.
The victims were supposed to witness the certificate of candidacy filing for Magundanao governor of then-Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in 2009. But they were intercepted and executed by armed men in Ampatuan town.
The Ampatuans, political rivals of the Mangudadatus, were accused of ordering the killings.
Philippine media groups are filing a petition before the Supreme Court to allow live media coverage of the case promulgation, expecting a guilty verdict on the principal accused led by brothers Zaldy and Andal Ampatuan Jr.
The family patriarch, Datu Andal Sr died while on trial. (Karen Macalalad/ MM)