THE Maguindanao massacre suspects asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to defer the start of the formal trial on the multiple murder charges against them slated on September 1.

Government prosecutors vowed to oppose the motion filed by clan patriarch, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Datu Unsay mayor Andal Jr. seeking the postponement of the trial.

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State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said the prosecution panel will file its opposition this week, citing Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC RTC Branch 221 has already issued a ruling even before the motion could was filed.

“Naka-set na yung trial on September 1. There’s already a pre-trial, and the pre-trial order was issued last Friday. We don’t see any reason why it should be delayed any longer,” he said.

Navera said the trial will be for those who have already been arraigned last month, unlike in the case of Andal Sr. who has yet to be arraigned.

In his motion, defense lawyer Philip Sigfrid Fortun said that several accused including, Andal Sr., have yet to be arraigned and that no pre-trial was conducted in respect of his evidence and legal position as required by the Rules of Court.

“As of the date of the filing of this pleading, no pre-trial order had been received by the undersigned, no review thereof by them had been made, and accused had not signed the confirmed copy yet contrary to the Rules which further render the setting, rash,” he said.

The defense lawyer further said that Reyes has yet to resolve pending motions before her sala, making the setting of the trial proper premature.

Fortun said there are still six unresolved principal motions and one unresolved reconsideration request for the inhibition of the handling judge.

Failure of the court to resolve these pending motions would deprive his clients’ right to due process, he said.

“Various incidents that affect the qualification of potential prosecution witnesses and the suspects’ position thereon are all pending, making the resumption of trial premature,” he said.

He noted that only one victim’s position and one private complainant will be presented in the scheduled trial as the rest of the 56 victims and their respective complainants have not passed through pre-trial as directed by the Rules.

“It thus makes the continuation of trial repetitive and burdensome, impacting on their entitlements as accused under the Rules of Jurisprudence,” he said.

Aside from the September 1 hearing, the Ampatuans are also seeking the cancellation of the September 8 and 15 subsequent hearings.

Last July 28, the principal suspects in November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre Andal Ampatuan pleaded not guilty of slaughtering 57 people including 31 journalists.

Initially, the Department of Justice filed 56 counts of murder against the accused in the massacre because the body of the 57th victim is yet to be accounted for.(JCV/Sunnex)