THE Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 has set judgment day on the 2009 Maguindanao multiple murder cases on December 19.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has issued a one-page order dated November 29 but only made public yesterday which read: “Let the promulgation of judgment in the above-entitled cases be set on December 19, 2019 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning to be held at Quezon City Jail Annex, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.”
The trial of the case has dragged on for 10 years already due to the number of accused (which is 197), victim (58), change of counsel of the accused, numerous motions and pleadings and threats and deaths of several witnesses.
Of the 197 accused, 90 are in detention, including the Ampatuan siblings, 11 are out on bail including Sajid Islam Ampatuan, eight have died including Ampatuan Sr., two were discharged as state witnesses, while six others were dropped as respondents.
The case involved the killing of 58 individuals, including 32 print and broadcast journalists, by gunmen allegedly upon orders of members of the influential Ampatuan clan.
The murder cases should have been decided last month as it was already submitted for resolution last August but Reyes asked the Supreme Court for additional time to issue her decision.
Under the Rules of Court, a judge has 90 days upon which to issue judgment after a case has been submitted for resolution.
The SC granted Reyes’ request for a one-month extension, which is expected to end by December 20.
Charged as principal suspect in the multiple murder cases are former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his siblings, former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Sajid Islam Ampatuan.
Their father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. who was also named as accused, died in 2015 while under detention due to a lingering illness.
Earlier, the lawyer of former Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu and 38 other victims of the massacre expressed confidence that the principal accused in the case will be convicted.
“We are awaiting for promulgation of judgment and I am confident that the principal accused will be convicted,” lawyer Nena Santos said, adding: “We are happy that finally a verdict will be issued by the court.”
Reached for comment, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said: “I am glad that we have finally reached the day of reckoning. The prosecution has presented nearly 200 witnesses and the defense over a hundred, during an intense trial that lasted several years,” Guevarra said.