Guidelines out to hasten Maguindanao massacre trial

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NEW guidelines were approved by the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to hasten the multiple murder cases in a Quezon City court in relation to the Maguindanao massacre, considered the worst political violence in the Philippines.

These include the use of judicial affidavits, which forgoes the use of oral testimony in a trial, and assignment of a third assistant judge, said SC spokesperson Theodore Te.

The affidavit must contain a written sworn statement of a witness in a question-and-answer format and documentary evidence.

The Court required Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 221 to hold separate trials of the accused, which the prosecutors believe there is no need to present further evidence and submit the case for decision.

However, this is without prejudice to applying other modes of terminating a case in advance of a full trial.

Also, Reyes can issue separate rulings on matters in any of the 58 cases without waiting for the completion of the presentation of evidence for all the accused.

A third judge will be designated by the SC to handle the conduct of non-trial incidents such as arraignments and pre-trials, as well as to decide incidents and motions that are not related to the merits of the cases.

Other criminal and civil cases pending before Reyes’ sala were assigned to Judges Maria Rita Bascos of Quezon City RTC branch 99 and Jenny Gapas-Agbada of branch 100.

Reyes and the third assisting judge have also been allowed to resolve the other motions despite the pendency of some of these matters in the Court of Appeals and the SC.

The Aquino administration has since promised to secure justice for the relatives of the victims, who were killed on November 23,2009 by the private army linked to Andal Ampatuan Jr., the opponent for Maguindanao governor by then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.

Of the 194 suspects expected to face trial, trial records show 106 had been arrested while 88 remain at large. (Sunnex)

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