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Justice chief expects ‘winding up’ of Maguindanao massacre trial this year

The Department of Justice expects to wind up the trial of criminal cases in the Maguindanao massacre this year, nine years after the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history involving journalists.

“This is a long-running case but I’m glad to inform the people that we are now winding up with the trial of this case,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told CNN Philippines on Thursday.

Guevarra said only five of the accused are still presenting evidence in their defense.

“We believe that we can wind up the trial of the case this year and we’re hoping that by 2019 a decision will be rendered by the court,” he said.

He made the statement two days after President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, announced that he chief executive had instructed the prosecution to do its best to secure partial judgment against some of the accused this year.

The trial began on Jan. 5, 2010, less than two months after 58 people were killed, including 32 journalists who were with the wife and supporters of then-Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto”Mangudadatu. They were on their way to file his certificate of candidacy.

The massacre is considered by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the deadliest single events for the press in memory.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 is conducting the trial against the defendants. The massacre happened in Ampatuan, the town that bears the name of the influential Maguindanao clan.

Family patricarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the suspects in the case, died in 2015. —VDS, GMA News