Court to release Maguindanao Massacre decision on December 19

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The landmark decision for the Maguindanao Massacre case will be out Thursday, December 19, which would put to rest multiple murder charges for 58 deaths a decade ago.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 2) — The landmark decision for the Maguindanao Massacre case will be out on Thursday, December 19, putting an end to a decade-long trial for the deaths of 58 people.

Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 issued an order on Friday announcing that judgment for the multiple murder charges will be announced at 9 a.m. about two weeks from now. The proceedings will be held at the Quezon City Jail-Annex inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

The promulgation will come a day earlier than the Supreme Court's "non-extendible" deadline to decide on the case by December 20, following Solis-Reyes' request for a one-month leeway.

READ: 'One conviction enough as Christmas gift for kin of Maguindanao Massacre victims'

The Maguindanao or Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009 left 58 people dead, including 32 media workers, some civilians, and some members of the Mangudadatu family — a rival political family of the Ampatuans. Relatives of then-Maguindanao gubernatorial bet Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, accompanied by a convoy of journalists, were on their way to file his candidacy for the 2010 elections when they were attacked by gunmen, allegedly from the Ampatuan family. The corpses of the victims were found, shallowly buried, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

The Maguindanao Massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack against media workers, and the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines.

A lookback at Maguindanao massacre: Ten years on

Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. is the primary suspect in the case. He was mayor of Datu Unsay town when he and his family's private armed group allegedly shot and decapitated the victims' bodies with chainsaws.

Only 116 of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges over have been arrested. Of this number, 107 were put on trial while five were dismissed. These include 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.

Last week, the court judge accepted Ampatuan Jr.'s memorandum to the case despite being filed months after trial ended, which wraps up the facts of the case and arguments raised during the trial. Solis-Reyes still decided to accept the document as part of the case records "in the higher interest of justice."

Looking forward

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it welcomes the looming decision on the case.

"We expect nothing less than a conviction, especially [for] those directly responsible and involved in the killings. Otherwise, the mockery of justice and the culture of impunity will continue to reign and worsen," the group said.

Separately, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he's anticipating the closure of the case. "I am glad that we have finally reached the day of reckoning. The prosecution has presented nearly 200 witnesses, and the defense over a hundred, during an intense trial that lasted several years. We thank the judge for her patience and diligence. We trust that she will dispense justice evenhandedly and with utmost respect for the rule of law."