SC allows live coverage of Dec. 19 ruling on Ampatuan Massacre

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 December) — The Supreme Court has granted the petitions of media organizations to allow live coverage of the December 19 promulgation of judgment on the massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao 10 years ago.

Print, television, radio, and online news agencies across the country last week asked the Supreme Court in a petition to allow “live coverage and streaming” of the promulgation of judgment on the Ampatuan Massacre cases on December 19 at the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 in Quezon City.

Ten years after the massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, justice has remained elusive. MINDANEWS PHOTO

The petition, addressed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, also asked that the court designate a specific area within the courtroom as a media area/gallery during the promulgation.

In the past 10 years, the widows and orphans of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre, most of them based in Mindanao, have been able to follow the trial via post-hearing reports and off-court broadcast by the news media.

According to the petition, families unable to travel to Manila would immediately know the decision of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes when the promulgation is aired live.

The petition also said the transparency made possible by a live broadcast would help boost public trust in the judicial system.

Fifty-eight persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, on November 23, 2009 when an estimated hundred armed men led by then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., stopped a convoy led by Genalyn, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangdudadatu, en route to the next town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, to file his certificate of candidacy for Governor.

The November 23, 2009 massacre was the worst election-related violence in the county.

A total of 197 persons were charged with 58 counts of murder.

Aside from Andal Ampatuan, Jr., also charged were his father, the former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.; his brothers Zaldy, then on his second term as Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town, and Sajid Islam, who was elected Vice Governor of Maguindanao in 2007; brother in law Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons Saudi Jr. and Bahnarin; and first cousins Nords and Akmad.

Sajid was freed on bail in early 2015 after paying 11.6 million pesos, at 200,000 pesos for each count of murder. Several other policemen were granted bail but could not afford the amount.

The Ampatuan patriarch succumbed to liver cancer on July 17, 2015. (MindaNews)