Judge in decade-old massacre case praised for job well done

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Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta — WIKIPEDIA.ORG

THE judge who heard a decade-old case involving the massacre of more than 50 people in Maguindanao province in the nation’s south has done a good job by giving all parties the chance to argue their case, Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said on Monday.

“She has been doing her job very well,” Mr. Peralta told reporters, referring to Quezon City Judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes, who is set to promulgate her ruling on the multiple murder case on Dec. 19.

“I think she gave especially the accused the required due process under the Constitution,” the chief magistrate said. “We have exhausted all the trial days in order to defend themselves, she has nothing to fear.”

Mr. Peralta said the judge, a former student, “has been performing very well.” He noted that Ms. Reyes is an avid reader who consulted her peers when she encountered problems during the trial.

Ms. Reyes will be given security when needed, although she has not sought it yet, the chief justice said.

The court was supposed to rule on the case before the 10th year anniversary of the massacre on Nov. 23 but it asked the high court to give it more time due to “voluminous records.”

The ambush took place when family members, supporters, and members of the media were accompanying Esmael G. Mangudadatu, who was then running for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, for the filing of his certificate of candidacy.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the Maguindanao massacre is the “worst single incident of journalist killing” in its records.

Several media earlier asked the Supreme Court to allow the Dec. 19 promulgation to be broadcast live.

In a letter, the groups said the live coverage and streaming would benefit the families of the 58 victims, 32 of whom were journalists.

Most of the victims live in the Mindanao region and do not have the means to go to Manila where the decision will be announced, according to a copy of the letter.

The letter was signed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

They also said the massacre trial has only been followed by the families mostly through reports and broadcasts.

The live coverage wont prejudice the rights of the accused, the groups said.

It would also allow the public to hear the ruling of the lower court, boosting “the public’s trust on transparency and accountability of court processes, particularly in how fair and just the case has been decided.”

Editors and officers and other journalists from several media networks, publications, signed the letter in support.

Those who signed were MindaNews, Philippine Press Institute, Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Times, Philippine Star and Interaksyon, Vera Files, ABS-CBN, Mindanao Gold Star Daily/GMA News 7 Network Cagayan de Oro, News5, Rappler, Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp., Radyo ni Juan Network and The Mindanao Cross. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas