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Maguindanao massacre trial update: 31 accused done presenting defense

On the eve of the 8th anniversary of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that around a third of the 103 accused who remain on trial have already finished presenting their evidence.

As of November 21, according to the briefer provided by the SC Public Information Office, only 103 remain on trial among the 115 people arrested over the carnage.

The prosecution has already rested its case against all of the accused, except for former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the alleged mastermind of the November 23, 2009 bloodbath.

"Considering that the bail proceedings against him was already terminated, the court is now awaiting the manifestation to be filed by the prosecution with respect to their Formal Offer of Evidence insofar as accused Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. is concerned," the SC said.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 junked Ampatuan's bail petition on May 31, 2017 and his subsequent appeal on June 16, 2017.

Also, the SC said the trial court has already heard a total of 273 witnesses (166 prosecution witnesses and 107 defense witnesses) and resolved all the 15 sets of formal offer of evidence (FOE) in connection with the bail applications of 70 accused.

Four of the accused were recently acquitted after the court granted their respective demurrers to evidence, which seek the dismissal of the case halfway through the trial based solely on the evidence presented by the prosecution.

Still pending are the resolution of the remaining FOEs of the defense and demurrers to evidence, and termination of the presentation of evidence by the defense.

"As soon as the accused have rested their presentation of evidence, their respective cases may already be submitted for the decision of the Court," the SC said.

"Under the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court specifically applying to this cases only, the court may render judgment separately and not wait for all the accused to conclude presenting their evidence," it added.

The trial is now on its seventh year.

Tagged as the worst case of election-related violence and worst case of media killing in Philippine history, the Maguindanao massacre left 58 people dead, some of them family members of then-Buluan town vice mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

Also among the victims were 32 journalists who were accompanying Mangudadatu's wife and supporters in filing his certificate of candidacy.

Mangudadatu was then about to go against Andal Ampatuan Jr. in the province's gubernatorial race in 2010.

Six other people who were not part of the convoy of vehicles carrying the Mangudadatus and the journalists were also killed as they happened to be in the area during the time of the attack. —LBG, GMA News