The country’s Supreme Court today granted the request of Quezon City regional trial court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to postpone the verdict in the case of the Ampatuan massacre, which claimed almost 60 victims, most of them journalists.
Solis-Reyes was scheduled to render a verdict on Nov. 30, but Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta told reporters today that the court understood why she needed another month to make a judgment in the 10-year-old case.
“There are so many accused and there are so many victims in that case, but we also allow [a] meritorious motion for extension and we understand her predicament and we allowed her to have an extension of one month,” Peralta said.
In a memorandum, Court Administrator Midas Marquez said that Solis-Reyes was given “a non-extendible period of 30 days from November 20 or until December 20, 2019, within which to decide the said criminal cases.”
The Manila Bulletin reported that Solis-Reyes had asked for an extension because she has to read 165 volumes of records of court proceedings, 65 volumes of transcripts of stenographic notes, and eight volumes of the prosecution’s documentary evidence.
“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,” Peralta said.
Prosecutor Nena Santos said she was confident that the principal accused — former Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., his brothers Sajid Ampatuan, and former Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan — would be found guilty by the court, Rappler reports. Their father and co-accused Andal Ampatuan Sr. died while in detention in 2015.
While Andal Jr. and Zaldy are in jail, Sajid is out on bail and is currently the mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao.
In 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, 58 people were slaughtered on their way to witness the filing of the certificate of candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu, who was planning to run for governor against Andal Jr. in that year’s election. Some of those killed were members of Mangudadatu’s family, though the majority were journalists.
The victims were buried in shallow graves near the crime scene.
The massacre has been called one of the worst instances of election-related violence in the world.