Justice too much delayed in the Maguindanao massacre
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Ten years is too long. To my mind, as a lawyer and a citizen, justice delayed is worse than plain injustice. It’s adding years of anguish and pains to the victims and torturing the accused with too much stress and expenses. Any judge who can’t decide in due time should resign or be held accountable for the delay.

Ten years is too long for one case to be pending, especially if it involves 58 innocent victims, including 38 journalists massacred with premeditation. The Maguindanao massacre is a big slap to the face of the Philippine justice system and we can never explain to any other country why ten years aren’t enough to write finis to such a monstrous crime. Of course, the court shouldn’t be blamed alone. The prosecutors, police, medico-legal experts, witnesses, and the accused and the victims themselves have their own faults.

There were no less than 257 original accused, 177 were arrested, while 80 are still at large, eight died in detention, five were released due to insufficient evidence, and three became state witnesses against the Ampatuans. A total 101 accused remain on trial, 90 of them are detained and 11 are out on bail. There are reportedly 165 big bundles of records related to the case. There are 65 big bundles of stenographic notes containing transcribed testimonies of witnesses. The judge has to read and analyze all these, pity the judge.

There were 357 witnesses. Out of them, 134 were prosecution witnesses, including the three state witnesses. There were 145 defense witnesses, including many of the accused who testified in their own defense. There were also 58 members of the families of the victims who testified in support of the prosecution. There were 11 public or government prosecutors and six private prosecutors hired by the victims' families. There were 20 law firms and lawyers for the defense.

Millions have been spent both by the prosecution, the defense, and also the government. Still justice isn’t yet about to be delivered. There are 15 suspects surnamed Ampatuan still at large, including Datu Kanor Ampatuan, brother of the deceased patriarch and former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan. Also at large are Andal's grandsons Bahnarin and Saudi Jr, as well as Kanor's son, Datu Mama. Other Ampatuans at large are Datu Harris, Datu Moning, Datu Norodin, Tony Kenis, and Kagi Amar. Those who can lead to their arrest will get P300,000 for each of the suspects. Once arrested and brought to trial, they may extend the period of waiting for another ten years.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 was poised to promulgate her decision on November 20, but she deferred because of the voluminous records. But Supreme Court administrator Midas Marquez gave her the non-extendible deadline of December 20. The victims’ families hope for a conviction. They include Esmail Mangudadatu whose wife, Genalyn, led the convoy of those who were massacred. They were on their way to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband.

That massacre was dubbed as the world's worst mass killing of journalists. It has established the Philippines as the worst place for journalists to be. May I call on all Filipino journalists to pray for the victims, and for Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to find the wisdom to decide the case in the fairest and fastest way possible? Ten years is too much to exacerbate the agony.

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