Like Nuremberg: Massacre trial should focus on Ampatuans

Posted at 11/23/12 11:34 AM

MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer for some of the families in the Maguindanao massacre case believes government prosecutors should focus on the Ampatuans who are the primary suspects in the killings.

Lawyer Harry Roque said prosecutors should have been more discerning on who should be charged in the massacre.

He said that during the trial of Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, Germany, only 14 Nazis were brought to court even if there were 20 million victims.

“We should focus in on the Ampatuan family, those that we have evidence, who really took part in the shooting and who really took part in the planning. I am not saying that the police should be allowed to go scot-free because they did hear the shots but did not do anything," he told ANC's Headstart.

Roque said the policemen who did not do anything when they heard the shootings should be fired but should no longer be charged.

“We have submitted for decision our administrative case to fire the 62 policemen from the service but until today, there has been no decision,” he said.

"What I am prompting the [Department of the Interior and Local Government] and hopefully Secretary Mar (Roxas) this time will heed us, is to fire everyone and that would be justice enough. Let us just focus on the 30 who took part in the shooting and the planning and let’s get on with the process,” he added.

Roque said it is not fair to blame Judge Jocelyn Reyes for the slow pace of the massacre trial because she has to deal with the defects of the country's justice system.

“What has happened is we have accepted delays in the judicial process in the Philippines. To us, 3 years is nothing. One thing that could arise from this massacre is that it is so gruesome, people are in fact rejecting the idea that the victims and the nations have to wait forever in giving justice to the victims,” he said.

“It’s a systemic breakdown. It proves that the pillars of our criminal justice system are not working. Why the delays? Because the police have not done their job, they have not arrested everyone…When they arrest someone else, the witness has to come back to identify the new suspects,” he added.

Fifty-eight people, mostly journalists and female members of the Mangudadatu clan, were murdered in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009. Their convoy was bound to file the certificate of candidacy (COC) of then gubernatorial hopeful and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu, was among the fatalities.

Of the 196 accused in the massacre, 98 have been arrested so far, including Ampatuan patriarch Andal, Sr., Andal, Jr., and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.

Of the 98 persons in the custody of authorities, 81 have been arraigned, the rest asked for deferment of their arraignment due to pending petitions with the appellate court.

Thirty-five lawyers are prosecuting the case, 21 of whom are public prosecutors from the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), 14 are private practitioners.

To date, the prosecution has presented 101 witnesses.

The defense is being represented by 54 lawyers.

Three-hundred-seven written motions and other matters have been raised before the trial court, 204 of these already resolved. These motions had resulted in the filing of 447 comments, oppositions, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders and manifestations. The records of the case have reached 48 volumes, so far.

Fifty-seven of the accused have applied for bail.