Manila Bulletin

‘Your Honor!’

- JULLIE Y. DAZA Crime · Philippines · Esmael Mangudadatu

There was no Perry Ma­son mo­ment. But the pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense agreed on one thing, Al­leluia!, and that saved the day for Judge Jo­ce­lyn So­lis Reyes, me­dia, 400 char­ac­ters packed into the court­room to hear the ver­dict of the cen­tury, and the peo­ple of the Philip­pines.

What should have taken 43 un­in­ter­rupted days to read, by broad­caster Peter Mus­ngi’s reck­on­ing, was mer­ci­fully cut down to just 30 min­utes when Judge Reyes or­dered the read­ing of only the dis­pos­i­tive por­tion of her de­ci­sion. In its en­tirety, the de­ci­sion is 761 pages long. But what amounts to a sum­mary of how the judge re­solved the crimes al­leged against each of the 101 ac­cused was neatly bro­ken down to 1) those guilty be­yond rea­son­able doubt, 2) ac­ces­sories, 3) those re­leased on the ba­sis of rea­son­able doubt, 4) those fac­ing war­rants of ar­rest.

This is not a sum­mary of the sum­mary. But like the sur­viv­ing heirs of the 58 ca­su­al­ties of the sav­age, large-scale mas­sacre that oc­curred on Nov. 23, 2009, the na­tion awaits clo­sure, know­ing it’s not about to hap­pen yet. The end of the trial is only the end of the first stage.

First of all, the 54 found guilty will cer­tainly ap­peal their con­vic­tion, which means an­other round of le­gal­is­tic agony for the sur­vivors.

With 81 ac­cused roam­ing free, most likely some­where around the Am­pat­u­ans’ for­ti­fied fief­dom, how safe are the lit­i­gants? In the words of Rep. Es­mael Man­gu­da­datu, only 20 per­cent of the Am­pat­u­ans’ ar­se­nal of high-pow­ered guns and bul­lets have been ac­counted for. Ad­di­tion­ally, the pow­er­ful clan won 25 seats in the last elec­tion.

Three lead­ing Am­pat­u­ans and their po­lice co­horts were sen­tenced to life terms with­out pa­role and or­dered to in­dem­nify the heirs, but how long will the vic­tims’ sur­viv­ing kin wait be­fore they are paid in full? The fam­ily of Rey­naldo Mo­may, who would have been ca­su­alty 58, have to bear a deeper tragedy. As his re­mains have not been found and un­til the fam­ily pro­duce proof of death, they won’t be able to claim com­pen­sa­tion.

Judge Jo­ce­lyn So­lis-Reyes de­serves the na­tion’s grat­i­tude for her ded­i­ca­tion and de­port­ment as a min­is­ter of the court. I won’t dare ask how much the pro­ceed­ings cost us. All I can say is, “You’re price­less, Your Honor!”

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