OFFICERS and members of the Negros Press Club (NPC) led the commemoration of the seventh year of the Maguindanao massacre Wednesday afternoon in Bacolod City.
The media practitioners offered flowers and prayers to the 58 victims, including 32 journalists. It was followed by a candlelighting rites at the Marker of the Fallen Journalists at the public plaza.
NPC president Teresa Ellera said Negrense journalists will continue to call for justice for the families of the victims gruesomely killed in Maguindanao seven years ago.
The Gabriela-Negros also offered prayers and flowers at the marker and called on the government to act on the case.
The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and the worst attack against journalists in the country's history.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court (SC) released an update on the murder cases filed against the suspects in the gruesome killing of 58 people, among them 32 media practitioners, in Maguindanao 7 years ago.
According to the Court, there are only three major incidents left for the resolution of the murder charges filed against 106 accused, which are now being tried in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court:
The resolution of the bail application of accused Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., and subsequently his trial-in-chief.
The resolution of the remaining defense FOEs (Formal Offer of Evidence).
The conclusion of the presentation of defense evidence, “After all of the parties have rested, these murder cases would then be submitted for the decision of the court,” the SC said.
The cases originally involved 197 accused, 15 of whom are surnamed Ampatuan, relatives of the alleged orchestrator of the Maguindanao massacre, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the former mayor of Datu Unsay Maguindanao.
According to the SC, 114 of these accused are already arrested, one case was dismissed for lack of probable cause, one was dropped by virtue of a Joint Order, and two had been discharged as state witnesses.
Four of the accused, including Andal Ampatuan, Sr., died while in detention.
According to the Court, from those arraigned, only 106 accused remain on trial before the Quezon City RTC Branch 221.
The SC assured the public that the cases are being properly attended by prosecutors.
“There are 12 lawyers comprising the third Panel of Public Prosecutors, 7 private prosecutors, and 27 defense lawyers/firms actively attending the proceeding,” the SC said.
According to the SC, as of this day, the lower court has already heard a total of 232 witnesses: 131 prosecution witnesses, 58 private complainants, and 43 defense witnesses.
The Court also reported that it had resolved all bail applications of the accused, except that of accused Ampatuan, whose formal offer of evidence was submitted for resolution on October 14, 2016.
"All bail proceedings having been resolved (except for accused Ampatuan Jr.), the proceedings are already now at the stage of presentation of the evidence-in-chief," the SC added.
The SC said the lower court will be hearing the evidences to be presented by the defense panel on January 19, 2017.
On November 23, 2009, the journalists who were supposed to cover the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy of then gubernatorial candidate Toto Mangudadatu, Ampatuan's rival, were gunned down and burred in Sitio Masilay, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province. (With reports from Sunnex)