DEPUTY presidential spokesman for economic affairs Gary Olivar said the "smooth" conduct of the first day of murder trial of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. was a "good start."
This, as the trial showed that the judicial body is in full control of the situation.
Olivar said despite criticisms that the law enforcement authorities may have "overreacted" in the preparations and security measures they still deserve credit for helping keep the trial orderly.
"The opening of the judicial proceedings that the proceedings went smoothly. The judge appears to be in control of the proceedings, so the message we are sending is that the inquiry, the proceedings, the investigations, is very much under the judicial control and is expected to proceed under the control of the judge."
He added that they are hoping that the same smooth proceedings would be emulated in the future hearings of the multiple murder trial, which stemmed from the killing of 57 people in Maguindanao, and in the rebellion case that implicated other members of the Ampatuan clan.
"The judge appears to be in control of the proceedings which is the way it should be in any kind of proceedings like this. I believe we're talking here of the multiple murder case that's being adjudicated right now and that's separate from the proceedings involvement in the charge of rebellion which involves, which implicates other members of the family so it's our hope that the other proceedings that may arise from this incident will likewise proceed in an as orderly, in the same orderly manner," Olivar said.
On proposals to transfer Ampatuan Jr. to the Quezon City jail while the trial is on going, Olivar said it is up to the court, the police and other authorities concerned to decide.
He acknowledged that the Philippine National Police have already called the attention of government following "problems with the venue as well as the security requirements" in handling Ampatuan.
"Considering the other things that they have to do in their (police) facilities... This is something that will have to be looked at closely by the agencies concerned and hopefully as a result of that will come out with an agreement that works for everyone. It's not an open ... case we have to look at the available alternatives and then determine the best one," he added.
Ampatuan Jr. during the hearing pleaded not guilty to the murder charges filed against him in connection with the November 23 Maguindanao massacre that left 57 people dead, including mediamen, lawyers, and members of the Mangudadatu clan.
The incident occurred when the wife of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, accompanied by lawyers and mediamen, went to the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Maguindanao to file the vice mayor's certificate of candidacy who will run for governor in the coming May polls.
In a related development, Olivar branded as "isolated" the recent shooting incident in Olongapo City involving a security detail of Vice Mayor Mangudadatu.
Olivar added that just because Ali Mohamedin Panegas, who allegedly identified himself as one of Mangudadatu's bodyguards, was involved in the incident does not necessarily mean that the Buluan official was involved.
"We're talking about something, an incident that involves a member of their security detail, it does not simply implicate the Mangudadatu family. At this point, based on the facts available, so I think it would be premature to draw a conclusion like that. Let's wait for the additional facts to come out."
The Palace official further said it would be better to await the results of the investigations instead of jumping to conclusions.
Reports said Panegas shot dead retired policeman and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) security force members Delfin Orines and Seferino Abadia when the two accosted him and brought him to the SBMA Law Enforcement Department for investigation.
But Mangudadatu denied Panegas's claim.
Panegas is said to be currently detained at the SBMA Law Enforcement Department.
Olivar meanwhile dismissed any need to re-impose Martial Law in Maguindanao amid recent attacks in the properties owned by the Ampatuans citing that it has already served its purpose.
Olivar said despite recent developments in Maguindanao, everything remains "under control."
He added that the State of Emergency remains in effect in Maguindanao, as well as in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City.
"That's (Martial Law) already been done before and I think the objectives were achieved. I don't see anything happening right now that would warrant doing that again," he said, referring to the eight-day Martial Law in Maguindanao from December 4 to 12, 2009.
Olivar said at present the judicial inquiry on both the multiple murder and rebellion charges are on going, while an independent commission was likewise formed to oversee the dismantling of private armies throughout the country.
"I believe the state of emergency still in place...beyond that, of course the regular consultations and heightened activity by the security forces, I'm not sure what else ought to be done by the President. I think the situation appears for the moment to be under control on all these different fronts and we will certainly continue to do our best to make sure that this remains the case," he said when asked about new instructions from President Gloria Macapal-Arroyo.
At least two persons were injured in separate attacks at the mansion of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Shariff Aguak, which was subjected to two mortar attacks on Sunday night, and in the grenade explosion at the back of the Petron gas station some owned by Ampatuan Jr.
Judge Reyes's integrity
The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) meanwhile assured Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of their support as they believe that she will give a fair and honest trial on the Ampatuan case.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, AMRSP chairperson, said they are counting on the integrity of Solis-Reyes and that she will be giving a just ruling.
"We can see in her a sense of duty that she has to fulfill... Just by the mere fact that she accepted the huge responsibility of handling this case already says a lot about her integrity and credibility," she said.
The much-anticipated hearing on the multiple murder charges filed against Ampatuan Jr. and other members of his family clan unfolded Tuesday in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The AMRSP official said they express full moral and spiritual support to the judge for her to be guided accordingly in coming up with a decision.
"We will be continuously praying for her so that she will be guided and that her life will be protected as well," she said.
Mananzan noted that Judge Solis-Reyes is a source of pride among all Filipino women after showing courage when she accepted to handle the case.
The QC RTC judge was the second judge assigned to the case when Judge Luisito Cortez refused to handle it for fear of possible danger to him and his family. (JMR/With FP/Sunnex)