Trials begin for 2009 reporter massacre


MANILA - The pre-trial of the Maguindanao massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists case will resume on Tuesday at the heavily-guarded police detention center in Camp Bagong Diwa in suburban Taguig City used as a temporary court. State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Branch 221 said the pre-trial will start at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Navera said the prosecution will present its witnesses and evidence against the suspects. The world is watching the celebrated multiple murder cases.

“The pre-trial involves the pre-marking and manifestations during pre-trial conference, then the court will issue pre-trial order to be signed by both parties. After that, the prosecution will start presenting its evidence,” Navera said.

The suspects, including the powerful Ampatuan family, have been arraigned in the mass murders, considered as unprecedented in the country’s judicial history as it involved the killing of 32 journalists.

One of the accused is the patriarch of the Ampatuan family, former former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

On the other hand, the administrative case against some Maguindanao police personnel implicated in the grisly killings is being heard by the National Police Commission.

Aside from Andal Sr., other members of the family -- former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano town mayor Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan -- are also facing charges for the crime.

Last week, the court ordered the deferment of the pre-trial due to the absence of one of the defense lawyers.

Judge Solis-Reyes ordered the resetting of the pre-trial to Aug. 17 after lawyer Nelson Roque, counsel for Police Inspector Michael Joy Macaraeg, failed to show up at the proceeding despite a clear order by the court that prosecution and defense lawyers should be present during the pre-trial.

Earlier, the prosecution listed more than a hundred witnesses, including actual eyewitnesses, forensic experts, policemen, relatives and families of the victims and military officers.

The prosecution also listed former Defense Secretary and losing presidential bet Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, who supposedly dissuaded then Vice Mayor and now Maguindanao governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu from seeking an elective post as one of the witnesses.

Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, was one of the 57 killed in the Maguindanao massacre, considered as one of the bloodiest election-related incidents in the country's history.

Also taking the witness stand for the prosecution are National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Counter-Terrorist Unit chief Ricardo Diaz, former Ampatuan vice mayor Rasul Sangki, and his uncle Datu Mohamad Sangki.

The defense, on the other hand, said it will present high-ranking officials of the previous administration such as former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, former Presidential Advisers Jesus Dureza and Prospero Pichay as well as Teodoro.

But former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been taken out of the list of witnesses, defense lawyers said last week.

Asia, Press FreedomBen Cal