Court to hand down Maguindanao massacre ruling on Dec. 19

Robie de Guzman   •   December 2, 2019   •   704

MANILA, Philippines – The decision on the decade-old case of Maguindanao massacre trial is expected to be released this month.

Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 issued an order on Friday, Nov. 29 announcing that the ruling for the multiple murder charges against over 100 suspects – including members of the Ampatuan clan – will be promulgated on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9 a.m.

The court proceedings will be held at the Quezon City Jail Annex at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The promulgation is set a day earlier than the non-extendible deadline given by the Supreme Court to Reyes to issue a decision on the Maguindanao massacre, which is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

The gruesome incident that occurred on Nov. 23, 2009 left 58 people dead, including 32 media personnel, some members of the Mangudadatu family and several civilians.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

Of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges, 101 were put on trial and could face sentencing soon.

Under the rules, Judge Reyes is required to resolve the cases on or before Nov. 20 or 90 days after these were submitted for resolution last August.

But Reyes submitted a plea to the Supreme Court, requesting for a 30-day extension.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed confidence that the Court will dispense justice “even-handedly and with utmost respect for the rule of law” in the forthcoming decision on the case.

“I am glad we have finally reached the day of reckoning. The prosecution had presented nearly 200 witnesses and the defense over a hundred during an intense trial that lasted several years” Guevarra said.

“We thank the judge for her patience and diligence,” he added. — RRD (with a report from Correspondent Mai Bermudez)

Police security for Judge Reyes, residence remains — NCRPO

Maris Federez   •   December 20, 2019

(FILE) Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes (C) presides the hearing of the Ampatuan Massacre at a maximum security prison in Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines, on 25 May 2011.

MANILA, Philippines — The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) confirmed on Friday (Dec. 20) that the police escorts installed for Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes remain even after the promulgation of the Ampatuan massacre case.

NCRPO acting director PBGen. Debold Sinas said police security for the Judge will continue.

He added that they have also installed personnel that will guard the Solis’s residence.

“Ang agreement namin po sa Supreme Court administrator, ang close-in niya tuloy pa rin po until the time the judge feels the situation is back to normal. Yung wala na syang agam-agam,” Sinas said.

Meanwhile, the police general also confirmed that the security inside the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City has gone back to normal after the promulgation of the case.

Inmates in the Metro Manila District Jail Annex may once again receive visitors.

Even the families of the acquitted accused in the Ampatuan case may also enter the compound to welcome their loved ones to freedom.

“Accordingly, when we call the BJMP, they were processing it, paisa isa ang release nun once the procedure ay ma- comply so hindi na po kami privy nun…ang amin lang kung susunduin sila its ok, mino-monitor lang namin kasi dadaan pa rin sa kampo namin sila,” Sinas added.

The official also added that the whole force of the NCRPO will remain in full alert status until January. —(with the report of Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

Judge Solis-Reyes acquits all accused in 58th murder case

Marje Pelayo   •   December 20, 2019

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes

MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on Thursday (December 19) junked the 58th murder case in the decade-long trial of the Ampatuan Massacre involving the 58th victim photojournalist Reynaldo Momay.

Based on the 761-page ruling, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes said that though Momay’s dentures were found, circumstance could not establish that he was there and that he was among the victims because his body was never found.

“This court concludes that the first element of murder – ‘that a person was killed’ – is absent in this case. The 58th count of murder will not prosper for it lacks corpus delicti,” the ruling stated.

“It must be borne in mind that proof of corpus delicti is indispensable in prosecutions for felonies and offenses, such as the crime of murder. Corpus delicti is the body or substance of the crime. It refers to the fact that a crime has been actually committed,” it added.

Judge Solis-Reyes thus acquitted all accused on the murder case filed for the death of Momay on the basis of reasonable doubt.

Appeals can no longer be filed for dismissed criminal charges such as Momay’s under the double jeopardy rule.

A team of forensic experts from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2012 found and verified Momay’s dentures at the crime scene.

This prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a murder case for Momay.

But Judge Solis-Reyes ruled that the absence of Momay’s body and the lack of death certificate could not made certain that Momay was among the victims.

She explained that the prosecution relied only on “mere say-so of the prosecution witnesses that the victim wore the subject denture will not amply establish its identity.”

She further noted that assuming that the dentures were indeed Momay’s, it was not enough to establish that the photojournalist died in the hands of the convicted criminals.

PH Senators hail guilty verdict for prime suspects in Ampatuan massacre

Robie de Guzman   •   December 19, 2019

A handout photo made available by the Supreme Court – Public Information Office (SC-PIO) shows a court employee (R) reading the verdict for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre at the trial venue inside a prison facility Taguig city, Philippines, 19 December 2019. EPA-EFE/SC-PIO

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino senators on Thursday expressed elation over the guilty verdict handed down by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and others involved in the gruesome killing of 57 people in 2009.

“Justice won today,” Senator Ralph Recto said in a statement, while Senator Joel Villanueva said the decision restores the public’s faith in the country’s justice system.

“I salute Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for her dedication and her courage to stand for what is right and just,” he said.

Villanueva also expressed hope that the government will continue to hunt down some 80 suspects who remain at large.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the case ruling has been a day too long in coming but is still a step towards the full measure of justice.

“My heart goes out to the families of all the victims who have suffered for far too long. I am glad that this decision finally saw the light of day, and the truth is this decision should have come sooner,” she said in a statement.

“The world has waited ten long years, and finally, we have taken the first step towards healing, accountability and justice. But this is not where the road to justice ends,” she added.

Senator Imee Marcos also called the guilty verdict for some of the Ampatuan family members a triumph for justice.

“Bagamat masasabing napakailap ng hustisya dahil na rin sa tagal ng paglilitis, ang promulgasyon na isinagawa ngayon ay positibong aksyon para sa mga biktima, at sa kalaunan ay tuluyang mapanagot ang iba pang akusado sa Maguindanao massacre,” she said in a separate statement.

Senator Leila De Lima also lauded the case decision, as well as the efforts of presiding judge Solis-Reyes.

“Judge Reyes will be remembered for how she tirelessly weighed and appreciated the facts, which led to the conviction of the Maguindanao mass murderers,” she said. “This day will forever be etched in history as the day justice did not tolerate homicidal and monstrous abuse of power.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, empathized with the victims’ families who waited a decade to get justice for their slain loved ones.

“I admire them for their strength and their faith. We continue to pray for peace in their hearts,” he said.

The 10-year old case stemmed from the grisly attack on November 23, 2009, that resulted in the death of 57 people, including 31 media workers.

Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

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