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!”