SC issues new guidelines to expedite Ampatuan trial

Rappler.com
A 3rd assisting judge will be appointed for the trial

MASSACRE. Police investigators looking at dead bodies covered with banana leaves, victims of a massacre in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. File photo from Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court issued Tuesday, December 10, new guidelines to speed up the Maguindanao massacre trial, which has been ongoing for 4 years. 

In a resolution, the Court directed the presiding judge, Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, to require remaining witnesses from both the prosecution and defense panels to submit judicial affidavits instead of direct testimonies at least 10 days before the scheduled date of testimony. 

Under the new rules, the presiding judge is authorized to issue separate decisions for issues which are “ripe for resolution” and hold separate trials of the accused. 

A 3rd assisting judge will also be appointed for the trial. 

In November 2009, armed men abducted and killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, who were accompanying now Maguindanao Gov Esmael Mangudadatu in the filing of his certificate of candidacy to challenge then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. 

Ampatuan, along with his father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Sr, his brother Zaldy, along with 5 others are facing charges over the massacre while 88 suspects remain at large.

Below are parts of the resolution released by Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te:

  • Direct the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 of Quezon City to implement the Judicial Affidavit Rule (A.M. No. 12-8-8-SC) in the reception of evidence thereby requiring all parties to submit judicial affidavits with attached exhibits in lieu of the direct testimonies of the remaining witnesses; provided, that the prosecution and the defense are given adequate time to consolidate their positions and to submit their judicial affidavits with attached exhibits at least ten days before the scheduled date of such testimony, furnishing copies thereof to the public prosecutor or the lead counsel for the accused;
  • Enjoin the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 of Quezon City to hold, based on her discretion, separate trials of the accused against whom the prosecution contemplates no further evidence thereby ordering such accused to present their evidence, and have the case submitted for decision with respect to them; Provided that this paragraph is without prejudice to the application of the rules on demurrer to the evidence or other modes of terminating a case in advance of a full trial.
  • Authorize the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 of Quezon City to issue, when appropriate, separate decisions or resolutions for issues which are ripe for resolution in any of the 58 cases being heard without waiting for the completion of the presentation of the evidence for all the accused; 
  • Designate a third Assisting Judge to handle the conduct of all non-trial incidents in the Maguindanao massacre cases, such as arraignments and pre-trials, as well as to decide incidents and motions that are not intrinsic to the merits of the cases with deliberate dispatch, and for such purpose, the Presiding Judge shall determine incidents that shall be handled by the third Assisting Judge;
  • Authorize the Presiding Judge and the Assisting Judge, designated in accordance with paragraph 3 above, Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 of Quezon City, in their discretion, to resolve petitions, incidents and motions filed before the trial court, despite the pendency of some of these matters in the higher courts.

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