EIGHT years after the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the government made a pledge to resolve the case in another four years to attain justice for the families of the 58 victims.

Undersecretary Joel Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), said Wednesday that the Duterte government would keep an eye on the developments concerning the ghastly deaths of the 58 individuals, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao.

Egco said they received assurance from the Department of Justice, particularly from Justice Assistant Secretary Juvy Manwong, that justice will be served under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte because the proceedings against the accused are "moving."

"The PTFoMS will keep a close watch and strictly monitor the progress of the judicial process regarding the Maguindanao massacre," he said.

"Manwong estimated that at the rate the trial is moving, the case may be resolved in four years, or well within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, based on the assumption that the defense will present an equal number of witnesses as that of the prosecution," Egco added.

The country on Thursday, November 23, commemorated the Maguindanao massacre, which claimed the lives of 32 media practitioners, the wife of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, and 25 others. The victims were in a convoy towards Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, where Mangudadatu was to file his certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections.

Nearly 200 people, including 15 surnamed Ampatuan, were implicated in the massacre. Of the total, 115 individuals have 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. Four have since died in prison while two are out on bail.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who joined Egoc at the press conference, said the executive department was optimistic that the judiciary would live up to its vow to work for a speedy resolution.

"We're hoping that earlier than the four years mentioned by the Undersecretary (Egco), there could be at least one or two accused who will have the promulgation of judgment," Roque, who served as the lawyer of relatives of the slain journalists, said.

"The President remains committed to accord justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and to all victims of illegal drugs in our country," he added.

Lawyer Nena Santos, who represents relatives of the victims, earlier said they were looking at partial conviction next year.

Egco said the PTFoMS has requested Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa and National Bureau of Investigation director Dante Gierran to intensify manhunt operations against those still at large.

Egco said they have been seeking "an end to impunity, speedier trial, partial judgment, and intensified manhunt for those suspects still at large."

"The good news is after a long and tedious search for justice, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. That long period of uncertainties is finally over. Hoping against hope, we expect justice to be completely served for the victims and families of this most gruesome crime," he said. (SunStar Philippines)