JUSTICE for the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre will likely be attained next year, the counsel to the victims' relatives said Tuesday, November 21.
Lawyer Nena Santos, in a press conference Tuesday, said she expected the court to issue a conviction in 2018, eight years since the massacre on November 23, 2009. Of the 58 victims, 32 were journalists.
"We're looking at 2018 for a partial conviction in so far as the victims and the private prosecutors and the government prosecutors are concerned," Santos said.
Santos, who arrived at the House of Representatives together with the relatives of the slain victims, said that in a span of eight years, 115 individuals involved in the killing have already been arrested while 81 are still at large.
Of the 115, three became state witnesses making the actual number of the accused, arrested and arraigned 112.
Datu Sajid Ampatuan, former Maguindanao governor and primary suspect in the massacre, posted P11.6-million bail on March 3, 2015 while four, including former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., died in prison, said Santos.
On April 25, 2016, one was discharged as state witness while another was released on bail on May 12, 2017.
Santos said three had been aquitted after filing a demurrer to evidence.
Currently, the lawyer said 102 of the accused are detained. The court refused to grant 42 of these accused bail while 70 were allowed to post bail but could not afford to do so.
Santos said 108 of the total number of accused have already filed their formal offer of evidence and now, only seven accused will need to file such in the succeeding days.
"Tapos na po ang paglilitis ng government prosecutors and private prosecutors. Naiwan na lang po ay konti na lang," she said.
Former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., another key suspect, will present evidence for his defense in December.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, who attended the press conference, said he planned to file a House resolution seeking an investigation into the slow pace of the legal proceedings.
Mangudadatu, whose wife was also killed during the massacre, appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte for his time to hear the updates regarding the cases.
Santos, for her part, asked President Duterte to compel the Department of Justice to provide assistance to the families and the witnesses through its Witness Protection Program.
"Aside from the help coming from the Mangudadatu family, sana meron pang iba (there will be other assistance, hopefully)," lamented Santos.
The lawyer also appealed for Congress to provide the witnesses and the families of the victims a fund for their security, financial assistance and education.
In 2010, the Congress gave P50 millon as funding for the witnesses and the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre. (SunStar Philippines)