News / Asia

After 3 Years, Philippines Massacre Trial Drags On

A masked Filipino artist holds up a replica of a burning weighing scale signifying justice to commemorate the 2nd year anniversary of the
A masked Filipino artist holds up a replica of a burning weighing scale signifying justice to commemorate the 2nd year anniversary of the "Maguindanao Massacre" at the National Press Club compound in Manila, November 23, 2011.
Simone Orendain
On the third anniversary of the Philippines’ worst politically-related massacre, the trial drags on, while 92 suspects in the deaths of 58 people remain at large. The so-called “Maguindanao massacre” is described as the single deadliest event for journalists anywhere.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu says he’s “disgusted” with the slow progress of the case against the people whom prosecutors allege killed his wife and other relatives in November 2009. But he remains optimistic.

“I am very confident that we could get the justice, the verdict, an optimistic Mangudadatu says. "It’s a matter of time. That’s why I kept on telling the prosecution and the judge to at least expedite the process of the hearing.”

Timeframe

But many say that “matter of time” can be very, very long. Manila attorney Harry Roque represents family members of more than a dozen journalists who were among 32 media workers killed in the ambush in the southern Philippine province. To try to speed things up, Roque wants to drop charges against most of the nearly 200 accused, and instead prosecute just 35 of them.

“As far as the court is concerned it has not also acted on our proposal that we should be allowed to present and finish evidence as to specific accused because although this is one case, it’s actually 196 cases at different stages,” Roque explains.

The defense does not want to see the suspect list whittled down, but it has also asked for another day to be added to the two-day a week schedule to try to move faster.

Witnesses

Roque says each side has more than 200 witnesses to place on the stand. But every time a new suspect is presented in court, witnesses have to identify them because he says there was no thorough police investigation.

“So we’re not able to present new witnesses," he explains. "They just keep coming back over and over again. And this will continue until all of the accused are apprehended.”

Ninety-two suspects are at large, 103 were arrested and 81 of those arrested have been arraigned. One suspect died, which brings the number of suspects to 195.

Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. (back 2nd L) attends the arraignment of his electoral sabotage case at a regional trial court in Pasay, east of Manila, March 26, 2012.Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. (back 2nd L) attends the arraignment of his electoral sabotage case at a regional trial court in Pasay, east of Manila, March 26, 2012.
x
Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. (back 2nd L) attends the arraignment of his electoral sabotage case at a regional trial court in Pasay, east of Manila, March 26, 2012.
Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. (back 2nd L) attends the arraignment of his electoral sabotage case at a regional trial court in Pasay, east of Manila, March 26, 2012.
The alleged ringleaders of the attack, Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son Andal Jr. have pleaded not guilty. But several members of their family who are also charged in the case have not yet entered pleas. Ampatuan, the clan patriarch, is believed to have been behind a plot to eliminate Esmael Mangudadatu so their chosen candidate could run unchallenged for governor of Maguindanao province. Ampatuan family members deny any wrongdoing.

Lack of progress

Bob Dietz with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has been monitoring developments since the massacre three years ago. He says that while President Benigno Aquino has demonstrated political will in going after corruption nationally, the Maguindanao trial is not a highlight of those efforts.

“But what we’re not seeing is a greater push in the Maguindanao trial and bringing people - not just to bring the trial to a close… but so many of the suspects are still at large and they just haven’t been brought in, and what we’re wondering is why that hasn’t happened under President Aquino," Dietz says.

At a news briefing Thursday, the president’s spokesman said their office understands the concerns “totally” and has “time and again” made its plea to the court system to expedite the process.

University of the Philippines Law Professor Theodore Te says the delay is happening because the judicial system is treating it like an ordinary case - not a massacre of 58 people that has drawn international attention.

“That the government has really not invested too much of its resources, too much of its passions in trying to get this case off the ground is, I think, is sad," Te says. "Because I think it deserves more than the effort that government has put into it.”

Te, a human rights advocate who usually takes the defense side in the courtroom, is not involved in the Maguindanao massacre trial. He says the Department of Justice should have dedicated about two dozen prosecutors to the case and allowed most of the current proceedings to be part of the pretrial and prep work.

The Justice Secretary this week also decried the lagging pace of what many are calling a trial with “no end in sight.”

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More