MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has issued additional guidelines for the trial of the multiple murder cases in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
In Tuesday's en banc session, the high court issued the following guidelines for the compliance of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221, the special court created to hear the cases, to fast track their resolution:
(1) the application of the Judicial Affidavit Rule, in place of direct testimonies of the remaining witnesses; provided, that both the prosecution and defense are given enough time to consolidate their positions. Both sides have to submit the judicial affidavits at least ten days before the scheduled testimony of the witnesses;
(2) hold separate trials of those accused against whom the prosecution has wrapped up its presentation of evidence;
(3) the Presiding Judge of Quezon City RTC Branch 221, Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, is authorized to issue rulings on motions and pleas without waiting for the completion of the presentation of evidence for all the accused;
(4) designate a third Assisting Judge to handle arraignments and pre-trials, and motions not intrinsic to the merits of the main cases; and
(5) the Presiding Judge of Quezon City RTC Branch 221 is authorized to rule on petitions and motions before the trial court, even if some of these pleas have been elevated before the higher courts.
One hundred and ninety-six individuals, including members of the Ampatuan political clan, led by their patriarch, former Maguindanao Goveror Andal Ampatuan, Sr., have been charged for the killings, described as the single worst election-related violence in Philippine history and the single worst attack on journalists in the world.
A total of 58 multiple murder cases are pending before the trial court in connection with the massacre.
58 people were brutally murdered on that fateful day, most of whom were journalists who accompanied the convoy of members of the Mangudadatu clan set to file the certificate of candidacy of then gubernatorial candidate Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.
Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn, and his sisters were among the fatalities.
Mangudadatu won the elections in the Ampatuan-dominated province.