By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang revealed that President Duterte ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to not let 2018 end without seeing a development on the long and winding trial on the Maguindanao massacre.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement in an interview over UNTV saying the President cannot wait anymore as it was already eight years since 58 people died, including 32 members of the media, in an election-related incident.
According to the Palace official, Duterte already summoned Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguire II and the entire prosecution panel that there should be a resolution as soon as possible.
“Pinatawag ang Kalihim na si Vit Aguirre at ang buong prosecution panel at nilinaw ni Presidente na kinakailangan sa lalong mabilis na panahon ay magkaroon ng resolution ito (The President called Secretary Aguirre and the entire prosecution panel and he made himself clear that there should be a resolution on the case as soon as possible),” Roque said.
“Ang balita po, ang sabi ni Presidente hindi matatapos ang 2018 na wala po iyang partial conviction; ang sabi niya, gagawin natin ang lahat para magkaroon ng partial conviction or partial judgment (From what I heard, the President said that 2018 will not end without getting a partial conviction. He said to do everything just to get a partial conviction or partial judgment),” he added.
“Ang sabi ni Presidente, gawin ang lahat dahil hindi natin puwedeng palipasin itong 2018 na wala tayong kahit na anong napakita na asenso dito sa kasong ito (The President said do everything and not let 2018 pass without showing that there is a development in this case),” he continued.
During the massacre’s eighth anniversary in November last year, Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco, also head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), said that with the rate the trial is moving, the case may be resolved within the term of President Duterte.
“After a long and tedious search for justice, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. We expect justice to be completely solved for the victims and families of this most gruesome crime,” Egco had said.
Egco said in November that the most welcomed development in the trial was the prosecution’s termination of the presentations of 190 witnesses, while 63 have been presented by the defense.
“Currently, 22 of the suspects have terminated their presentation of evidence, 13 of which were submitted for decision. There are 21 accused who are currently presenting their evidence,” Egco had said.
Based on the November 2017 tally of the PTFoMS, 58 counts of murder have been filed against 188 accused, 106 of whom are now behind bars. Three of the accused have died while incarcerated, while two are out on bail. It also noted that 82 suspects are still at-large.
Roque, who also serves as Duterte’s Presidential adviser on human rights, said he cannot allow to let the case take another four years. Roque’s law firm represents 14 media victims of the massacre.
The massacre happened on November 23, 2009. The Ampatuan clan was believed to have plotted the massacre to derail the candidacy of rival Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who challenged Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the position of governor.
The committee to protect journalists (CPJ) has called the Maguindanao massacre the single deadliest event for journalists in history.
However, Egco revealed that he was informed by the National Press Club that only 18 of the 32 families expressed their interest in pursuing the case. He expressed hope that their interest in pursuing the case would return as they see that the case its nearing its end.