MANILA, Philippines - A day before the 3rd anniversary of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, the Supreme Court said the speedy resolution of the case against the 196 accused, led by members of the Ampatuan clan, rests not only with the judge trying the case but with all "parties and actors involved."
The statement came amid criticisms against the "slow pace" of the trial.
In a rare opportunity, SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief Atty. Gleo Guerra gave a press conference on Thursday amid the high court's current "dignified silence" policy. The policy, instituted by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, bars the PIO and other court officials and personnel from giving statements to the media.
"Considering the unique and unprecedented nature of this case, and the volume of the work still to be done, the speedy disposition of this case depends on the cooperation of all the parties and actors involved," she said.
She added: "Our judge has already exerted a tremendous amount of effort and work and knows it is her duty to continue doing so."
Guerra, however, refused to answer questions from the media, stressing that she was instructed to merely issue a statement.
The consolidated Maguindanao massacre cases are pending before the sala of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221. The trial court was designated as a special court by the Supreme Court in 2011, dedicated to hear only the Maguindanao massacre cases.
Solis-Reyes started hearing the cases on Dec. 17, 2009, by virtue of a re-raffle. The hearings before her sala began on January 5, 2010.
Of the 196 accused, 98 have been arrested so far, including Ampatuan patriarch Andal, Sr., Andal, Jr., and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.
Of the 98 persons in the custody of authorities, 81 have been arraigned, the rest asked for deferment of their arraignment due to pending petitions with the appellate court.
Thirty-five lawyers are prosecuting the case, 21 of whom are public prosecutors from the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), 14 are private practitioners.
To date, the prosecution has presented 101 witnesses.
The defense is being represented by 54 lawyers.
Three-hundred-seven written motions and other matters have been raised before the trial court, 204 of these already resolved. These motions had resulted in the filing of 447 comments, oppositions, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders and manifestations. The records of the case have reached 48 volumes, so far.
Fifty-seven of the accused have applied for bail.
Fifty-eight people, mostly journalists and female members of rival Mangudadatu clan, were murdered in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009. Their convoy was bound to file the certificate of candidacy (COC) of then gubernatorial hopeful and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.
Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu, was among the fatalities.