By Arjay L. Balinbin
A PANEL of prosecutors is set to “rest its case” on the 2009 Ampatuan massacre “by the middle of the year,” according to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra.
First sought for comment, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, said, “First quarter ang unang hope natin (We initially hoped that the case will be resolved by the first quarter). Depende kasi kay judge ‘yun eh (It depends on the judge). But within the year or within six months hopefully.”
The case is being handled by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.
Mr. Egco’s chief of staff, lawyer Abraham A. Agamata, said the task force is scheduled to have a meeting with the DoJ on March 20 regarding the case.
“May meeting tayo (We have a meeting) on March 20, ‘yung (the) task force, inter-agency, regarding the updates on the case,” Mr. Agamata said in an interview.
Mr. Guevarra, when sought for comment, said in a phone message last Friday, “The prosecution will rest its case by the middle of the year, and then the case will be submitted for decision.”
Also sought for comment, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia said the commission has also been closely monitoring the progress of the case.
“In 2009, a joint CHR team from both its Central and Regional Offices investigated the Ampatuan massacre and even extended forensics support in examining the remains of the victims,” she said in a phone message on Saturday.
“The following year, it was resolved that human rights violations were committed (right to life, liberty, and security of persons, as well as the right of person to vote and be voted upon) and that financial assistance be granted to the victims’ families. Since then CHR has monitored the progress of the case filed before RTC Branch 221 of Quezon City, noting the last trial was held in 2014,” Ms. de Guia added.
On Nov. 23, 2009, family members and associates of then-gubernatorial aspirant Esmael G. Mangudadatu, accompanied by members of the media, were massacred on Masalay hills in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, by henchmen associated with the Ampatuan family.
The party was accompanying Mr. Mangudadatu in his filing of certificate of candidacy against former Datu Unsay mayor Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr., son of former Maguindanao governor Andal S. Ampatuan, Sr.