Give Maguindanao massacre judge the benefit of the doubt – Sereno
CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday appealed to the public for understanding that the Maguindanao massacre case is a very complex case and the judge handling it should be given the benefit of the doubt.
The courts are being criticized for the pace Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes is going ain handling the November 23, 2009 massacre where 58 people, 32 of which were members of the media were killed.
But Sereno said she is proud at how Judge Solis-Reyes is handling the case.
“I am very proud by how the case is being handled. Remember, there are 58 victims, there’s 200 suspects, more than 100 of whom have already been arrested… You have witnesses that has reached more than 110 and volume of records has already reached 44 and we have hearings thrice a day…and we have one judge handling this,” Sereno told reporters.
“If you compare that with a regular case, there is only one suspect one dead body in one night and you add lots of evidence… Here we have a multiple of that,” Sereno said explaining the complexities of the case.
Prior to Reyes, the Maguindanao case has been assigned to other judges but opted to inhibit.
Sereno said there are already over 120 witnesses whose testimonies need to be examined.
“You have not more than 200 working days in a year. This judge has been given the sole job of attending to this day in and day out. Kung di lang natin makakalimutan ang datos na yan, mabibigyan natin ng konting tiyaga and benefit of the doubt ang huwes na nakatala to hear this case,” she added.
To expedite the handling of this case, the Supreme Court already issued guidelines to speed up the massacre trial.
In its guideline, the high court has appointed a third assisting Judge for Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes. The judge will handle all non-trial incidents in the Maguindanao massacre case such as the arraignments, pre-trials as well as motions that are not essential to the merits of the multiple murder case.
Motions pending before the court drag the trial of the case with both parties insisting that the motions should first be resolved before proceeding with the trial of the case.
Reyes and the third assisting Judge have been also allowed to resolve the other motions despite pendency of some of these before the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
The high court enjoins Judge Reyes to hold, upon her discretion, separate trials on accused which the prosecutors believe that there is no need to present further evidence and submit the case for decision without prejudice to applying other modes of terminating a case in advance of a full trial.
Also, the high court allowed the lower court to issue separate rulings on matters in any of the 58 cases of murder without waiting for the completion of evidence for all the accused.
The high court also allowed the use judicial affidavits for the remaining witnesses and attach exhibits (evidence) at least 10 days before the scheduled date of testimony and provide copies to the public prosecutor or lead counsel for the accused.
Judicial affidavits are being used in the civil aspect of the case where relatives of the victims detail their testimonies instead of testifying in court.
Out of 197 accused, 104 accused have been arraigned.
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