De­ci­sion on 2009 Maguin­danao mas­sacre out be­fore Christ­mas

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By REY G. PANALIGAN

The de­ci­sion on the cel­e­brated 2009 Maguin­danao mas­sacre is ex­pected to be out be­fore Christ­mas af­ter the Supreme Court (SC) gave Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of the Que­zon

City re­gional trial court (RTC) a non-ex­tendible 30 days to re­solve the case.

Chief Jus­tice Dios­dado M. Per­alta, in a meet­ing on Fri­day (Novem­ber 8) morn­ing with jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the SC, said Judge Reyes’ plea for one-month ex­ten­sion to de­cide the cases was granted by the High Court.

“This of­fice finds the ground for your re­quest rea­son­able and hereby grants the same. Please be re­minded, how­ever, that you

are hereby granted a non-ex­tendible pe­riod of 30 days from 20 Novem­ber 2018, or un­til 20 De­cem­ber 2019, within which to de­cide the said crim­i­nal cases,” a mem­o­ran­dum sent to Judge Reyes by Court Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jose Midas P. Mar­quez stated.

Based on the mem­o­ran­dum, Reyes re­quested an ex­ten­sion be­cause of the vo­lu­mi­nous records in­volved in the cases – 165 vol­umes of records of pro­ceed­ings, 65 vol­umes of tran­scripts of steno­graphic notes, and eight vol­umes of pros­e­cu­tion’s doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence.

Fifty-eight per­sons died in Baran­gal Sal­man in Am­pat­uan, Maguin­danao, on Nov. 23, 2009 in the in­ci­dent now known as the Maguin­danao mas­sacre.

Those killed were part of a con­voy that was to ac­com­pany the reg­is­tra­tion of then Bu­luan town Vice Mayor Es­mael Man­gu­da­datu for the 2010 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion.

Mul­ti­ple mur­der cases were filed against 197 ac­cused. The trial of the case even­tu­ally landed in the sala of Judge Reyes for se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Un­der the rules, Judge Reyes should re­solve the cases on or be­fore Nov. 20, 2019 or 90 days af­ter they were sub­mit­ted for res­o­lu­tion last Au­gust.

But Reyes, in a plea sub­mit­ted to the SC, re­quested a 30-day ex­ten­sion to re­solve the cases, move granted by the SC.

Chief Jus­tice Per­alta said “the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides that all trial courts should pro­mul­gate their de­ci­sion within the 90-day pe­riod” (from the time the case is sub­mit­ted for de­ci­sion).

“In the case of Judge Reyes, you know very well that there are so many ac­cused and there are so many vic­tims in that case. We also al­low mer­i­to­ri­ous mo­tion for ex­ten­sion and we un­der­stand her predica­ment and we al­lowed her to have an ex­ten­sion of one month,” Per­alta said.

“As I said mo­tions for ex­ten­sion are the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule. We un­der­stand her plight and I hope that she will no longer ask for an­other ex­ten­sion so that be­fore the end of the year those cases will fi­nally be de­cided,” he added.

In an effort to ex­plain Judge Reyes’ predica­ment, Per­alta said:

“I am frus­trated of what hap­pened to the vic­tims. But I think Judge Reyes did her best to give jus­tice to the vic­tims and to af­ford the ac­cused the re­quired due process of law un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“I was a fis­cal and a trial court judge. This is my first time to hear cases in­volv­ing so many vic­tims. I think in the last cen­tury I have yet to hear cases in­volv­ing mas­sacre of so many peo­ple.

“The ac­cused are all en­ti­tled to what we call due process. We adopted sev­eral ways in or­der to fast-track the res­o­lu­tion of cases. It is good that the par­ties agreed to these tools that were adopted by Judge Reyes in or­der to re­solve the cases, as early as pos­si­ble.”

Ear­lier, De­part­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) Sec­re­tary Me­nardo I. Gue­varra had hoped that the de­ci­sion on the Maguin­danao mas­sacre cases be handed down be­fore the in­ci­dent’s 10th an­niver­sary on Novem­ber 23.

On the re­quest for a 30-day ex­ten­sion to re­solve, Gue­varra said “we shall leave this mat­ter to the sound dis­cre­tion of the Supreme Court, but we re­ally hope that the good judge would be able to pro­mul­gate her de­ci­sion sooner than later.”

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