Supreme Court extends Ampatuan massacre judgment to December

Lian Buan

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Supreme Court extends Ampatuan massacre judgment to December
'We have waited for ten years, the 30 days is a short time to wait,' private prosecutor Nena Santos says of the 30-day extension to promulgate the decision

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has granted the request to extend by 30 days, or until December, the promulgation of judgment in the 10-year-running Ampatuan massacre case, where 58 individuals were killed, 32 of them journalists.

“There are so many accused and there are so many victims in that case but we also allow meritorious motion for extension and we understand her predicament and we allowed her to have an extension of one month,” Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said on Friday, November 8, referring to the request of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 211 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes to extend the period.

The promulgation of judgment was originally scheduled for November 20, following the rules on continuous trial.

“You are hereby granted a non-extendible period of 30 days from November 20 or until December 20, 2019, within which to decide the said criminal cases,” Court Administrator Midas Marquez told Judge Reyes in a memorandum sent Thursday, November 7.

Private prosecutor Nena Santos did not oppose the extension.

“We have waited for ten years, the 30 days is a short time to wait,” Santos said in a text message to reporters.

There are 101 individuals who were on trial for the last 10 years, with the court receiving the testimony of 357 witnesses.

The case records have now reached 238 volumes, including transcripts and prosecution evidence.

Santos, and even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, said they were confident of a conviction of at least the principal accused, who are Andal Jr aka Datu Unsay, Zaldy and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

The alleged mastermind, the Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr, died in 2015 while on trial. 

Two key witnesses – Sukarno Badal, a former vice mayor in Maguindanao and an ally of the Ampatuans, and Lakmodin Saliao, a househelp of the Ampatuans – point to the brothers as having conspired to kill the people in a convoy that accompanied Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in his filing of his certificate of candidacy. Mangudadatu was going to run for Maguindanao governor opposite Andal Jr.

The 2009 massacre is the deadliest attack on journalists in the world and the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history. 

“I am frustrated at what happened to the victims but i think Judge Reyes did her best in order to give justice to the victims and also in order to afford the accused the required due process of law under the Constitution,” said Peralta.

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.