Facing possible delay, DOJ still hopes for Maguindanao massacre verdict soon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is hoping there will be no further delay in the resolution of the 10-year-old Maguindanao massacre case.

Guevarra made this statement Thursday after Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes asked the Supreme Court for a 30-day extension on her deadline to rule on the case.

"We shall leave this matter to the sound discretion of the Supreme Court," Guevarra said. "But we really hope that the good judge would be able to promulgate her decision sooner than later."

The case was submitted for decision last August 22, giving the judge 90 days or until third week of November to deliver the verdict.

Officials have expected the highly controversial case to finally be resolved by November 23 – ten years after the gruesome mass killing.

Nene Santos, a lawyer for the victims' families, expects the accused to be found guilty, particularly principal suspect Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr.

READ: Zero conviction in Maguindanao massacre case would mean death of press freedom, lawyer says

Ampatuan was mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao province when he and his family's private armed group allegedly killed 58 people – shooting and decapitating them with chainsaws – on November 23, 2009. The victims include 32 media workers, civilians, and members of the Mangudadatu family – a rival political family of the Ampatuans.

A total of 104 individuals faced trial, including Ampatuan's brother, former Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan. Their father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., was also a primary suspect before he died in 2015 due to complications from liver cancer.

The Maguindanao massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack on media workers, and the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines. Santos, who oversaw the entire trial, attributes the long delay to many factors – the huge number of accused, changes in lawyers, numerous motions filed, and the cases and threats faced by witnesses and lawyers, among others.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.