SC grants 1-month ex­ten­sion in Maguin­danao mas­sacre case

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By EVE­LYN MACAIRAN

The Supreme Court (SC) has granted the re­quest of Judge Jo­ce­lyn So­lis-Reyes for a month’s ex­ten­sion be­fore hand­ing down a de­ci­sion on the 10-year-old Maguin­danao mas­sacre case.

Chief Justice Dios­dado Per­alta said the Que­zon City Re­gional Trial Court judge has un­til Dec. 20 to de­cide on the fate of 197 sus­pects, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Am­pat­uan clan, who are be­ing held ac­count­able for the killing of 58 peo­ple in 2009.

The chief mag­is­trate pointed out that while the rules pro­vide that all trial courts should pro­mul­gate de­ci­sions within 90 days from sub­mis­sion, they also un­der­stand Reyes’ predica­ment.

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

How­ever, he also warned that the SC would not grant a sec­ond ex­ten­sion.

“As I said, mo­tions for ex­ten­sion are the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule and we un­der­stand her plight. 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.”

Joel Sy Egco, Pres­i­den­tial Task Force on Me­dia Se­cu­rity (PTFoMS) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said they re­spect the SC de­ci­sion as he hopes for a pos­i­tive rul­ing.

“With­out pre-empt­ing the out­come, (I am) op­ti­mistic that the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims will fi­nally get the justice that they have been wait­ing for the last decade. It took the po­lit­i­cal will of a Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to fi­nally see this through its log­i­cal con­clu­sion,” he said.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sec. Martin An­da­nar, who co-chairs the PTFoMS, said they “ex­pect that justice will ul­ti­mately pre­vail for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.”

“We can­not help but be amazed at the ded­i­ca­tion of the men and women of the law en­force­ment units, pros­e­cu­tors and most es­pe­cially, the Pres­i­den­tial Task Force on Me­dia Se­cu­rity, whose pas­sion for their work is ex­ceeded only by their de­sire to see this case through its con­clu­sion,” he said.

Egco ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the de­ci­sion will be handed down be­fore yearend af­ter al­most a decade of wait­ing. “It is worth the wait. What is one month com­pared to ten years? Lower courts usu­ally go on Christ­mas break in mid-De­cem­ber. So the de­ci­sion may be out by Dec. 14.”

The Am­pat­uan Mas­sacre has been re­garded as the dead­li­est sin­gle-day at­tack on jour­nal­ists in the world and the worst elec­tion-re­lated case of vi­o­lence in re­cent Philip­pine his­tory.

Of the 58 peo­ple who were killed, 32 were jour­nal­ists who joined the con­voy of then-Bu­luan Vice Mayor Es­mael Man­gu­da­datu, who had sent his wife and sup­port­ers to file his can­di­dacy against An­dal Am­pat­uan Jr.

The Chief Justice praised Judge Reyes for work­ing on the case, say­ing she “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.”

Ac­cord­ing to Reyes, she needed the ex­tra time to sift through the case’s vo­lu­mi­nous records, which con­sists of 165 vol­umes in pro­ceed­ings, 65 vol­umes in tran­scripts of steno­graphic notes and eight vol­umes of the pros­e­cu­tion’s doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence.

Judge Reyes sub­mit­ted the case for de­ci­sion last Au­gust and orig­i­nally had un­til Nov. 20 to pro­mul­gate the case.

BOY SAN­TOS

Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo leads the meet­ing of the gov­ern­ment’s In­ter-Agency Com­mit­tee on Anti-Il­le­gal Drugs with co-chair­man and Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency di­rec­tor gen­eral Aaron Aquino (2nd from left), In­te­rior and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary Ed­uardo Año (right), Trade and In­dus­try Sec­re­tary Ra­mon Lopez (left) and Dan­ger­ous Drugs Board chair­man Catal­ino Cuy at the Que­zon City Re­cep­tion House yesterday.

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