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QC court handling Maguindanao massacre case is now 'special court'

From now on, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 will hear only the Maguindanao massacre case. In a resolution issued last June 28, the Supreme Court granted the petition of the National Press Club to name the Quezon City court as a "special court" exclusively for the hearing of the trial where members of the Ampatuan clan stand accused. Judge Joceyln Solis-Reyes is the presiding judge of the Quezon City court, which will now be exempted from the raffling and assignment of cases filed with the Quezon City RTC. "... the Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 is designated as a special court to hear and decide criminal cases nos. Q-09-1621148-72, Q-09-162216-31, Q-10-162652-66, and Q-10-163766 (commonly entitled People v. Datu andal Ampatuan Jr., et al) and exempted from the raffle or assignment of new cases until the presiding judge decides the aforementioned cases or upon further orders from this Court," the high court said. "The Regional trial Court Branch 221 of Quezon City is granted full authority to resolve any matter and issue which may arise from the said cases, including issues cognizable by other special courts without need of further designation by this Court," it added. In a text message to GMA News Online, private prosecutor Nena Santos, legal counsel for Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, welcomed the high court's ruling. "[The ruling] will obviate any question on jurisdiction and will help the court to fast-track the proceedings," Santos said. No objections In its ruling, the high court likewise noted that parties involved in the massacre case did not pose objections to the petition to designate the Quezon City RTC Branch 221 as a special court. "All parties called for the speedy disposition of the case by conducting daily marathon hearings, citing material factors such as the large number of accused, victims, and witnesses involved in the trial, as compelling reasons therefor," said the high court. The SC issued the resolution two weeks after it promulgated a landmark decision allowing the live media broadcast of the massacre trial. Chief Justice Renato Corona also ordered the SC's Public Information Office to livestream the trial on its website. The Maguindanao massacre in Ampatuan town claimed 57 lives, 32 of whom are journalists. Named as principal suspects are clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., former Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Rizaldy "Zaldy" Ampatuan. — with Mark Merueñas/RSJ, GMA News