Maguindanao massacre victims’ kin hope for justice soon

MANILA The victims' families see justice coming soon in the case of the Maguindanao massacre.

"We are hoping that promulgation of judgment will be this November in time for the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre, November 23, 2009," lawyer Nena Santos, one of the private prosecutors in the case told a media briefing in Quezon City on Tuesday.

Santos said they are expecting a guilty verdict for "all principal accused", if not for all 197 co-accused in the case.

The attack resulted in the death of 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, the single worst peace-time incident involving the killing of newsmen.

Other victims were family members and supporters of the Ampatuan clan's political foe, Esmael Mangudadatu.

"(A)fter the massacre, there were already political personnel, or personages that occupied the different positions in the province of Maguindanao and several politicians already occupied different positions aside from the Ampatuans. Yes, they (Ampatuans) still have municipalities where they are mayors, vice mayors, or relatives are in the Sangguniang Bayan in the areas where the Ampatuan clan control, so there are about 6 of them in Maguindanao," Santos said.

Santos said a number of factors caused the delay in resolution of the case.

"Maraming dahilan (There were a lot of reasons). They all said napakarami ng akusado, pangalawa, ang daming defense counsels, ang daming change of lawyers, ang daming motions filed, witnesses na tinakot, pinatay, pina-recant. Ito lahat, (There was a lot of accused, defense counsels and changes of lawyers, a number of motions filed, witnesses intimidated, killed and forced to recant their statements. All these) (are) a confluence of events)," she said.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court earlier turned down a plea by accused Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan to delay the promulgation of the court's judgment in the cases arising from the Maguindanao massacre.

In her five-page order, Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes denied the motion to re-open trial with a motion to suspend period to set the promulgation of judgment filed by Ampatuan on October 14.

Ampatuan's lawyers had initially asked that the proceedings should be suspended and claimed that prosecution witness Sukarno Badal contacted them through representatives, claiming that he would want to recant his testimony and that what he mentioned during the presentation of evidence were not all true.

The panel of prosecutors, led by Prosecutor Arthur Velasco, objected to the motion on several grounds that there is no newly- discovered evidence to justify the reopening of the trial, also citing that the necessary judicial affidavit is not attached to the motion.

Subsequently, the witness himself denied he intends to change his testimony and said he would not likely approach the Ampatuans as they would kill him.

"With the denial made by prosecution witness Sukarno Badal of his intention to recant his previous testimony, it is crystal clear that the ground relied upon by the accused for the reopening of trial has no leg to stand on," the court said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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