The Quezon City Regional Trial Court has set the promulgation of judgment on the Maguindanao massacre case on Dec. 19, or more than 10 years after the gruesome killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City RTC Branch 221 said she will render judgment on the multiple murder cases in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre on Dec. 19 after terminating the trial of the case last August.
READ: Maguindanao massacre: SC moves verdict
“Let the promulgation of judgment in the above-entitled cases be set on Dec. 19, 2019 at 9:00 o’clock in the morning to be held at Quezon City Jail Annex, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City,” Reyes said in an order dated Nov. 29, copy of which was released to reporters only on Monday.
The controversial case, which involves the murder of 58 people by gunmen allegedly upon the orders of members of the influential Ampatuan clan, should have been decided last month as it had already been submitted for a resolution last August, but Solis-Reyes asked the Supreme Court for an extension.
Under the rules, a court has 90 days to issue judgment after a case has been submitted for resolution.
The high court granted Solis-Reyes’ request for a one-month extension, and she is expected to render a decision on or before Dec. 20.
Tried as principal accused in the multiple murder cases were 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 is also among those charged in the case, died in 2015 while under detention due to a lingering illness.
The trial of the case dragged on for 10 years due to the sheer number of the accused―197―and victims―58―the change of the counsel of the accused, many motions and pleadings and threats and the death of several witnesses.
Of the 197 accused, 90 are in detention including the Ampatuan siblings, 11 are out on bail including their brother, Sajid Islam, who was allowed to post bail by the court, eight have died including Ampatuan Sr., two accused discharged as state witnesses, while six others were dropped as respondents.
Earlier, the lawyer of former Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and 38 other victims of the massacre expressed confidence that the principal accused in the case would be convicted.
READ: Mangudadatu to quit post if main massacre suspects walk
“We are awaiting the promulgation of judgment, and I am confident that the principal accused will be convicted,” lawyer Nena Santos said.
“We are happy that finally a verdict will be issued by the court.”
When sought for comment, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they were glad that the case was now up for judgment after more than a decade of trial.
“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 even as he commended Reyes for the impartial handling of the case. With Rio N. Araja
READ: Maguindanao massacre kin seek more time to go to Manila