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Maguindanao massacre: Not one accused convicted after 8 years

/ 08:13 PM November 22, 2017
Maguindanao massacre

Police investigators look for evidence on a mangled vehicle unearthed at the crime scene where human remains were dug up from a shallow grave as investigators try to find more bodies, victims of a massacre after gunmen shot at least 50 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province on Nov. 25, 2009. (File photo by TED ALJIBE / AFP)

After eight years, not one of the 197 accused for the death of 58 people, 32 of which are journalists in the so-called Maguindanao massacre, which took place on Nov. 25, 2009, has been convicted.

In a case update released by the Supreme Court Public Information Office (SC PIO), of the 197 accused, 103 are still under trial.

Of the 197 accused, 115 had already arrested. Fifteen of the accused are surnamed Ampatuan.

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One of the accused was cleared for lack of probable cause, one was dropped from the amended information, two have been discharged as state witness while four accused, including former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., died while in detention.

Recently, the court also granted the demurrer to evidence submitted by four accused.

The cases against the accused, led by former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., are now in three final stages – resolution of the remaining formal offer of the evidence-in-chief (FOE), demurrers to evidence, and the termination of the presentation of defense evidence.

“As soon as the accused have rested their presentation of evidence, their respective cases may already be submitted for the decision of the Court,” the SC PIO said. “It is already the turn of the accused to present their evidence-in-chief. Thirty one accused have already concluded the presentation of their evidence. Thirty four more accused are currently presenting their respective defense evidence-in-chief.”

As of Nov. 21, Branch 221 Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has already heard a total of 273 witnesses: 166 prosecution witnesses, and 107 defense witnesses.

The RTC has resolved all the 15 sets of formal offer of evidence in connection with the bail applications of 70 accused.

It has likewise resolved all bail applications of the accused, including that of accused Andal Ampatuan Jr., which was denied last May.

The high court said the RTC could render judgment separately on each accused and not wait for all the accused to conclude presenting their evidence.

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The SC said it denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Unsay in its order dated June 16, 2017.

“The prosecution has already finished the presentation of evidence in the main cases against all of the accused, save for Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr.,” the SC added. “Considering that the bail proceedings against him was already terminated, the Court is now awaiting for the Manifestation to be filed by the prosecution with respect to their Formal Offer of Evidence insofar as accused Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. is concerned.”

The proceedings are being actively attended by 10 lawyers that comprise the third Panel of Public Prosecutors, eight private prosecutors, and 23 defense lawyers or law firms.

The transcripts of stenographic notes have now reached 59 volumes, while the records of the cases are 129 volumes thick, plus 10 volumes of prosecution’s evidence.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has committed speed up the case to secure justice for the victims of the massacre.

“We will do all that we can to make the wheels of justice turn faster not only in this case but in other cases,” he said. /atm

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TAGS: Andal Ampatuan Jr., Maguindanao massacre, SC case update
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