Maguindanao massacre prosecutor sees conviction in 2018
More than 100 persons charged with 58 counts of murder for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre will finally face sentencing next year after eight years of trial, according to the private prosecutor of one of the most infamous crimes in the Philippines.
“We expect conviction of all the 112 persons facing charges over the murder of 58 individuals on Nov. 23, 2009,” lawyer Nena Santos told a press briefing at the House of Representatives.
She said that of the 196 charged, 115 were arrested, with 81 still at large. Out of 115 arrested, two turned state witness, 112 were arraigned, one was granted bail, while four died in prison and three were acquitted for lack of evidence, she added.
Only seven of the accused have not presented their formal offer of evidence, the lawyer said. Santos did not say when the court would promulgate its decision.
Fifty-eight persons, including 32 journalists, were waylaid that day in 2009, allegedly by henchmen of the ruling Ampatuan clan.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan town, sent his wife, two sisters, lawyers and aides to file his certificate of candidacy for governor against Andal Ampatuan, who was then mayor of Datu Unsay town.
Journalists joined the convoy to cover the unprecedented move against a member of the Ampatuan clan. They, too, were shot and hurriedly buried in graves excavated with a backhoe on a hilltop overlooking the highway.
Santos attributed the long delay in the resolution of the cases to defense tactics and replacement of lawyers representing the accused.
“Overall we are pleased that of 196 accused, 115 were prosecuted,” she said.
Santos noted that in the normal course of cases involving “one victim (and) three accused, the average length of resolution takes five to 10 years.”
“We thank the Supreme Court that they made [Quezon City Regional Trial Court] Branch 221 a special court. Trial is weekly, three days a week, from 1-5 o’clock (p.m.),” she said.
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