By Uriel C. Quilinguing
IT’S always worth the wait for an outcome one expects to be on his side. But waiting goes on if the result is beyond one’s expectations.
Last Nov. 8, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta granted the request of Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes (Branch 221, Quezon City) for 30 more days to rule on the murder case against Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and more than 100 others filed almost 10 years ago. So the ruling is expected to be handed down December 20, instead of November 20 as originally set.
The massacre of 58 persons, including 34 media practitioners, occurred Nov. 23, 2009, in the municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province in Mindanao.
So the countdown has begun.
Yet, Judge Solis-Reyes must have all the time she needs for a thorough appreciation of the 238 volumes of information in her hands; consisting of eight records of documentary evidence, 65 records of stenographic notes, and 165 records of court trials.
This is so because the world knows the case involves 58 counts of murder, including 32 media practitioners, 197 suspects of which 117 had been arrested while 80 others have yet to be arrested. Of the suspects, cases against nine have already been dropped, three were allowed to become state witnesses, while 11 were already out on bail.
Had the petition of principal suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the reopening of the case been granted, the verdict could have been dragged. While the Ampatuan patriarch who was perceived as the mastermind of the gruesome massacre, Andal Ampatuan Sr., had already died in detention in 2015, one of the suspects, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr. is still at large.
Meantime, hours of deliberate reading on the part of the presiding judge would be mentally tedious and physically limiting, notwithstanding the rigors of composing of what could be a landmark decision.
So the 30-day extension is understandable to those who, for almost 10 years now, have been closely watching the unfolding of events on this “single deadliest event for journalists in history,” as described by New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Because of this, the Philippines became the deadliest country for journalists in the world in CPJ List in 2010 with 55 cases of unsolved killing of journalists.
Since that year until this year, 2019, the Philippines has been in the top five deadliest places in the world for journalists in the impunity index of the CPJ. Impunity Index is the ranking of countries worldwide where journalists are slain and their killers go free.
For this year, two broadcast journalists were gunned down; Dindo Generoso of DyEM FM 96.7 Rai Radio in Dumaguete City (Nov. 7), and Eduardo Dizon of Brigada News (July 10). Two others who survived attempts on their lives were station manager Benjie Caballero of Radyo ni Juan in Takurong, Sultan Kudarat (Oct. 30) and reporter Brandon Lee of Northern Dispatch in Ifugao (Aug. 6).
Now, we have yet to see what the Presidential Task Force on Media Security can do to the threats and killings of journalists, beyond briefings, trainings, and updates.
MediaKonek agrees with PTFMS executive director Joey Sy Egco when he said, “Critical journalism is a key component of a healthy democracy.” Let’s try, through concrete actions, to keep it that way. It’s worth the wait… even if we offer more lighted candles.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club who, for more than three decades, had been editor in chief of Cagayan de Oro-based newspapers, including this paper. For reactions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)