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With barely a year left for the Aquino administration, Malacañang is leaving it up to the courts when to convict those responsible for the Maguindanao Massacre.
Speaking at a forum marking World Press Freedom Day, Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. acknowledged public dismay with the snail-paced trial of the accused in the multiple murder case but said its resolution is now in the hands of the judiciary.
“Batid na batid namin ‘yun (public dissatisfaction) kaya lamang po pag sinabi nating gobyerno, di lang naman isang sangay ang gobyerno natin. ‘Yun pong pagkamit ng hustisya para sa Maguindanao massacre victims and their families ay nasa kamay na po ng isang sangay ng pamahalaan— ang hudikatura. At sa sistema ng ating pamahalaan, hiwalay at pantay ang sangay na ito,” he said.
In 2013, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told Agence France-Presse that Aquino gave marching orders for convictions to be made during his term, even for the principal suspects at the very least.
“Kahit po araw-araw na iproklama o ideklara ni Pangulong Aquino na gusto niyang matapos ang trial na ito, wala po siyang tuwirang kamay o partisipasyon dahil ito ay nasa kamay na ng ating justice system,” he added.
But as of this month, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court hearing the case has yet to issue any verdict against any of the 194 accused as most of the proceedings have been bail hearings. The prosecution rested its case for the bail hearings in March 2014, after presenting more than 100 witnesses, ranging from eye witnesses to government officials and medical experts.
Trial taking time
Fifty-eight people, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed by armed men in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 while they were on their way to witness the filing of a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu by his wife and sisters, who were also among those murdered in the incident.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists considers the Maguindanao massacre as the deadliest single attack on journalists on record.
While maintaining that the Aquino administration is one with the Filipino people in wanting a speedy resolution of the case, Coloma said the reality is that seeking justice for the massacre victims will take time because the court has yet to start the trial.
“Ganoon po talaga ang realidad. Sino po ba ang ayaw na matapos na ito? Sino po ba ang gustong magtagal pa ito? Hindi si Pangulong Aquino. Hindi kaming nasa pamahalaan. Pero harapin natin ang realidad. Kailangan pong pahintulutan natin ang ating umiiral na sistema na gawin ang trabaho nito at habang ginagawa nila ‘yun, pinu-pursue natin sa iba’t-ibang larangan ang mga judicial reforms,” he said.
Among the positive developments Coloma said could help speed up the resolution of the case is the Supreme Court’s decision to assign two more judges to assist presiding judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes in hearing the case. — ELR, GMA News