Lady judge inspects site of Maguindanao massacre trial

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 23 2009 09:54 PM | Updated as of Dec 24 2009 05:54 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The regional trial court judge and Supreme Court (SC) officials inspected on Wednesday the facility where the trial of the multiple murder case of those allegedly involved in the Maguindanao massacre last November 23 is set to be held.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City (QC) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 personally inspected the Police Non-Commissioned Officers’ Clubhouse inside Camp Crame in Quezon City where the trial of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other suspects in the massacre will be held.

Together with officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Reyes and SC officials wanted to make sure that there will be no problems in the courtroom once the QC RTC starts hearings on the case,

Tight security

Police and SC officials assured the RTC judge that security will be tight during the trial.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 (2nd from right) leaves Police Non-Commissioned Officers’ Clubhouse inside Camp Crame in Quezon City

“We have assured her of security. We want her to feel safe and secure, confident para di na niya iniisip iyan para maka-focus siya mabuti sa kaso,” said lawyer Midas Marquez, SC spokesman.

Security measures that would be implemented during the trial hearings were also being ironed out.

Among the measures are that persons who would be able to enter the court room during the hearings would be limited. Aside from those accused, witnesses and their counsels as well as prosecutors, only media personnel accredited by the regional trial court handling the case would be allowed inside.

Only 1 reporter per newspaper and television station would be allowed inside.

Members of media will be allowed to take video and photographs only before the hearing starts. Once Reyes enters the courtroom, cameramen and photographers would no longer be allowed inside.

Cellphones and tape recorders would also be prohibited inside.

A widescreen monitor would be installed outside the gate of the clubhouse for those who would want to view and monitor the proceedings of the trial. But no picture nor video of the widescreen monitor showing the proceedings would be allowed to be taken.

“Based on prevailing jurisprudence we cannot take videos of court proceedings,” said Marquez.

“Fair trial”

The SC spokesman also said that only the vehicle bearing Reyes would be allowed inside the gate.

He said the security measures would be strictly implemented especially with the controversial case.

“Iyong administration of justice dapat hindi naisasantabi iyan. Maipakita natin na talagang ang ating proseso ay walang kinikilingan,” said Marquez.

The petition to post bail of Andal Jr. and a show-cause order filed by his counsel, lawyer Philip Sigfrid Fortun would be tackled in the hearing set on January 5.

Earlier, the high Court granted the petition filed by Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera seeking the transfer of the venue of the hearing of the multiple murder cases filed against Andal Jr., from the Regional Trial Court of Cotabato City to the Quezon City RTC.

The SC also directed Reyes of QC RTC Branch 221, where the case was re-raffled, to hear the cases at the National Police headquarters in Camp Crame to ensure the security of those who will be involved in the trial.

Devanadera cited security concerns in seeking the transfer of the venue of the hearing of the Maguindanao massacre case.

Subpoena vs Andal  Sr.

Meanwhile a subpoena from the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been served on the patriarch of the powerful Maguindanao clan former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. who is detained in a military hospital in Davao City.

Andal Sr. was ordered to appear on Monday for the continuation of the preliminary investigation on the multiple murder case at the justice department in Manila.

The physician attending to Andal Sr. assured that the former governor is fit to travel.

Andal Sr. has been detained at the Camp Panacan military hospital inside the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters since he was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation.

The justice department has filed 56 counts of multiple murder against Andal Jr.. Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera said one more murder charge is still pending since the 57th body remains unidentified.

The Ampatuans are former close allies of President Arroyo. Several witnesses have pinpointed the Datu Unsay mayor as having led the massacre in the Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Amaptuan town. From a report of Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News