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 "Maguindanao Massacre" at the National Press Club compound in Manila, November 23, 2011.
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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid