MANILA, Philippines?With nearly 200 defendants and 300 witnesses listed by the Department of Justice in the multiple murder case against the Ampatuans, Sen. Joker Arroyo said it could take 200 years for justice to come to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.
?I?m very worried about this case. Having too many defendants and witnesses in a case is not good. If there are 200 defendants and 300 witnesses, it will take 200 years to finish this because even one defendant can delay the proceedings. They won?t finish it even if they hold hearings everyday,? Arroyo said.
Arroyo said aside from not being able to fit all of the defendants in one courtroom, each has the right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.
He recalled the MV Andrea and Karagatan case during martial law, in which Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison was one of 50 defendants being tried in a military court for allegedly smuggling in arms from China.
?The case started in 1974 and up to 1986, when the Marcos regime fell, the prosecution was not able to present evidence in a military court where the investigations are expected to be much faster,? Arroyo said.
?With too many defendants, they could not rush the case,? said Arroyo, who was among human rights lawyers for the accused in the Marcos-era case.
He said the military then had to hold hearings in a gymnasium to accommodate all defendants.
Aside from trimming down the number of defendants and witnesses, Arroyo also suggested that presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, opt to drop her other cases and focus on this one to ensure a speedy trial.
?The prosecutors or the DoJ should see how not to delay the hearings. They have to change their strategy or else the poor victims will not get any justice,? Arroyo said.
The first day of the hearing was moved from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8 upon request of defense lawyers.
Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and several other members of the politically powerful Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao have been charged with the murder of 57 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23.