Maguindanao massacre trial threatened with more delays

 The government's failure to deliver swift justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre has been a consistent "sore point" for the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, according to surveys of the the Social Weather Stations.

But Sereno said the public must understand that it is no ordinary case. The process is long because, unlike other murder cases, it involves so many murder victims. 

She said she is "proud" of the way the case is being handled. She asked the public to give the court the "benefit of the doubt."

Sereno cited the DNA evidence required to be presented for the identification of all 58 victims and the overwhelming number of police reports, medico-legal reports, cops and families of victims who need to be presented.

"Remember, there are 58 victims. There are 200 suspects and more than 100 of whom have already been arrested. You have witnesses that have reached more than 110 and the volume of records has already reached 44. We have hearings thrice a day," Sereno said.   

In a move to fast-track it, the court assigned 3 other judges to assist Reyes in coming up with a "partial judgment" that is expected to satisfy the public to "think that justice has been done."

"On the part of judiciary, we have done everything we can and I think we are going to be proud of how we handle this case," Sereno said. 

2 massacres and a peace process

A year before the 2010 elections, journalists and the relatives and supporters of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu, who were in a convoy, were ambushed and massacred. Up to 58 peope were killed and burried in an attempt to hide the massacre. Among them were 32 journalists.

Members of the ruling Ampatuan clan, threatened by Mangudadatu's bid, and their men are the only suspects in the gruesome massacre. They are facing trial for multiple murder.

The Ampatuan clan and its private armies have long lorded over the province that is at the center of the country's Muslim rebellion. After the massacre, the war-torn province was placed under martial law and the Ampatuans were arrested.

Relative peace also prevailed as the administration of President Benigno Aquino III jumpstarted peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The administration is now trying to finalize a peace agreement that aims to create a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao that, short of independence, will be given more powers and resources. 

Ironically, this peace agreement was derailed by another so-called massacre in Maguindanao. In January 2015, as Congress deliberated a proposed law creating the Bangsamoro region, a botched police operation to arrest an international terrorist in rebel territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, threatened the peace process. (READ: Timeline: Mamasapano clash)

A day-long firefight with armed groups in the area – among them MILF members – killed 44 elite cops. along with MILF members and civilians. The bloodiest police operation in recent history stoked sympathy for the cops in spite of their blunders, turning citizens against the MILF and the peace process. –