File photo from Ala Paredes/Supreme Court/AFP
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – All eyes were on Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes as she handed down the decision on one of the biggest cases of the decade – the Ampatuan Massacre.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 convicted Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy of 57 counts of murder in the gory massacre of 2009. They were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and are set to face reclusion perpetua without parole.
The promulgation on Thursday, December 19, marked the end of an almost 10-year trial that has seen a judge withdrawing from the case, raffling off case, and deaths of both witnesses and accused.
The trial has also been criticized for its massive delays. But on Thursday, these might all end with the decision of Reyes on whether or not the accused – including members of the powerful Ampatuan clan – are guilty in the massacre of 58 people on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao. ([WATCH] Trial of the decade: Highlights of Ampatuan massacre case)
But the case wasn't supposed to be handled by Reyes in the beginning. The case was raffled off to Reyes in December 2009 after judge Luisito Cortez refused to take it on out of fear for his and his family's safety. (TIMELINE: The long road to justice for Maguindanao massacre victims)
Who is Reyes?
Reyes took on the case in 2009 during her 17th year in government service. She has been working in government for at least 27 years now.
Reyes obtained her law degree from the University of Santo Tomas and became a lawyer in 1987. She holds a journalism undergraduate degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines. In a Varsitarian article in 2010, she counted her mother – who studied law for 3 years – as motivation to be a lawyer.
Reyes began her stint as public attorney in 1992, before becoming a public prosecutor at the Department of Justice from 1995 to 2000.
In 2001, Reyes was appointed municipal trial court presiding judge in Angeles and Olongapo in Pampanga. After 3 years, in 2004, she was assigned to Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.
File photo by Noel Celis/AFP
By the time that the case was given to her in 2009, Solis was handling "more or less 700 cases, around 400 of which are criminal in nature," according to an ABS-CBN article published that year. But she has not yet taken any high-profile case involving controversial people.
She nonetheless took on the job, even initially refusing security detail given to her due to the sensitivity of the case at hand.
The promulgation of the decision is the culmination of a trial that took 10 years – which stemmed from November 23, 2009 when armed men intercepted a convoy of journalists, media workers, lawyers, and relatives of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu on their way to file his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor.
The Ampatuan massacre is considered the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines. With 32 of the victims being journalists, it is also regarded as the single deadliest attack against the media in the world.
Since 2009, families and groups have been pursuing justice for their slain relatives and colleagues, condemning delays that have pushed the trial to take almost a decade. (READ: Children bear the brunt 10 years since Ampatuan massacre)– Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.