Maguindanao massacre trial now in the homestretch – Chief Justice

Camille Elemia

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Maguindanao massacre trial now in the homestretch – Chief Justice
After the defense panel rests its case, which they vowed to do 'soon,' the case will be up for decision, says the Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday, August 25, said the Maguindanao massacre may soon be in the homestretch after nearly 7 years.

Sereno, speaking before the media, gave updates on the “two largest criminal cases” facing the Philippine judiciary – the 2009 Maguindanao massacre and the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

The Chief Justice said the massacre trial has reached the tail end of the hearings, after the prosecution already rested its case. She, however, did not give any time frame. (READ: World awaits gov’t action on Ampatuan massacre case)

“As of date, the proceedings have already reached the hearing on the evidence-in-chief. The prosecution already rested its case after filing 5 batches of formal offers of evidence against 105 accused, and the court already resolved the first batch involving 9 accused,” Sereno said.

The ball is now in the defense’s court, as it started its presentation of evidence on June 29, 2016. After they finish, which they supposedly vowed to do “soon,” the 7-year old case would be up for decision.

“Meanwhile, the presentation of defense evidence commenced last June 29, 2016. Once the defense rests it case, which it has promised to be soon, these cases will be submitted for decision,” the Chief Justice said.

The Maguindanao Massacre is considered the single deadliest attack against the media, as 32 journalists were among those killed. In all, 58 victims were identified. There are 195 accused in the case, and 112 have been arraigned. (READ: 6 updates on Maguindanao massacre’s 6th year)

The transcripts of notes, said Sereno, have reached 52 volumes, while the records of cases are now 114 volumes thick.

The Supreme Court earlier released special rules to expedite the massacre trial under Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

Reyes had been relieved of all assignments “to focus solely on the case,” said Sereno. (READ: ‘Maguindanao Massacre trial being expedited at maximum’)

Three assisting judges have also been assigned to handle minor motions and other pending cases in Reyes’ court, the Chief Magistrate added.

“Special trial guidelines have been issued to fast track reception of evidence and to allow her to issue partial judgments, all of this so that the trial can be expedited. Hearings are continuous and thrice-weekly,” Sereno said. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.