Judiciary in focus


    TEN years is a long time, but at least the wait will soon be over.

    The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 will issue this morning, Dec. 19, its verdict on the Maguindanao massacre case. The case involves the murder of 58 people, including 38 media workers on Nov. 23, 2009, clearly the most gruesome mass killings of media professionals in the country. More than 190 people, including members of the Ampatuan political family in Mindanao, have been accused of multiple murders.

    While many Filipinos have all but forgotten this election-related violence in 2009, suddenly many sectors during the past week or so have come out to say their piece on the Maguindanao massacre. Previously, this gruesome episode in the nation’s political history was remembered only during its yearly anniversary.

    To refresh the public’s memory, the massacre occurred when media, relatives and supporters of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangundadatu were on their way to the local Comelec office to file the vice mayor’s certificate of candidacy for governor. They were stopped at a checkpoint, and were brought to the hills of Sitio Masalay where they were shot with high-powered firearms and buried in shallow graves, even using a government-owned backhoe.

    According to court records, Andal Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the powerful clan and his sons Unsay, Sajid and Zaldy and 197 others — 15 of them surnamed Ampatuan — were charged with multiple murders.

    The National Press Club, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other media groups for once were united in condemning the slaying of journalists in Maguindanao, and have been on the forefront of the fight for justice especially for the mediamen who died in the carnage.

    Senators, congressmen and other officials also expressed their concern, hoping that justice would soon be served.

    Malacañang is hopeful that justice will prevail amid the upcoming court verdict in the gruesome massacre case.

    Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Duterte administration expects the court to decide on the case based on evidence, and hope the public will respect the decision. He noted the 10-year-old case was prosecuted under previous administrations, but “regardless of under whose administration, justice should always prevail,” he said. “We have to respect whatever the decision of the court will be,” he added.

    At the recent 10th anniversary of the incident last month, Malacañang assured the people that the Duterte administration remains resolute in giving justice to the victims and their families. It is also committed to the maintenance of the protection of all media practitioners. The Filipino people await the court’s verdict today, and media may well thank the Supreme Court for allowing media coverage of the event, even if limited.