MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said she wants the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to conduct hearings on the Maguindanao massacre case at least 2-3 times a week instead of its current schedule of once a week.
De Lima lauded the Supreme Court's decision to relieve QCRTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of other cases pending before her sala so she could focus on the Maguindanao massacre case that left at least 57 people dead, including 30 journalists, November 23 of last year.
Speaking to reporters in a news conference, De Lima said the move will help expedite the Maguindanao massacre trial.
"We welcome the issuance of the SC relieving the judge of other assignments," De Lima said.
The Supreme Court has assigned Caloocan City Judge Rowena Tan and Quezon City RTC Judge Vivencio Baclig to handle the other cases assigned to Reyes.
The justice chief also said government prosecutors handling the case are now focusing on the prosecution of the priority list of accused.
"Yung mga principal accused ang aming i-pu-push, pati yung pag-aresto sa hindi pa naaresto... and implementation of outstanding warrants of arrest," she said.
The Department of Justice is coordinating with the Philippine National Police for the arrest of some 37 individuals who are among the principal accused. De Lima said some of these still at-large individuals are surnamed Ampatuan.
De Lima said the arrest of these individuals is vital in the prosecution's mapping out of its case timeline, in anticipation of delaying tactics the DOJ expects and anticipates to be employed by the defense.