Lawyers begin to wrap up Maguindanao Massacre case

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Kin of the Maguindanao massacre victims commemorate the tragedy's 8th anniversary

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 23) — It´s exactly eight years since the Maguindanao massacre, but justice remains elusive for the victims´ families. Lawyers however say the trial against more than hundred accused in the massacre is set to wrap up in the coming months.

More than 30 media workers were among 58 people brutally murdered under the hands of one of Mindanao´s most powerful political clans.

Exactly eight years since the Maguindanao massacre, their families continue to seek justice.

The long wait could soon be over.

Nena Santos, legal counsel of Maguindanao Massacre victims´ families said, "We are confident that this case will be wrapped up by 2018, and hopefully justice will be achieved."

On Thursday, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes heard the testimonies of witnesses for the defense.

She has been doing this for seven years now.

In a sign that the trial could soon be wrapping up, one defense lawyer is submitting his client´s case for resolution.

But Atty Artemio Caña also wants the court to hold in contempt Undersecretary Joel Egco of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security for saying in an interview that two principal suspects could be convicted by 2018.

Caña, who is the lawyer of Akmad Ampatuan Sr. said, "He makes it appear that he wants to influence, or put pressure to the judge."

Santos however, said, "Nasa government sya, e. People of the Philippines na case ito, e di siyempre sabihin niya dapat may conviction."

[Translation: He is in government. This a case involving the People of the Philippines, he must say that there should be a conviction.]

About half of close to 200 accused are detained and facing trial in a facility inside the Philippine National Police's Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

A number of them acquitted or granted bail, while about four have died, including Andal Ampatuan Sr., who was tagged as one of the brains behind the massacre.

Santos said, "Based on the records, konti na lang ang magpepresent ng evidence. So matantsa na namin yon kung gaano katagal. So hindi na kami nage-expect na aabot pa ng 2019."

[Translation: Based on records, only a few are left to present evidence. So we can estimate how long it will take. So we are not counting on it to reach 2019.]

Even as the Maguindanao Massacre case has dragged on for years, journalists welcome the possibility a decision may be rendered next year.

And as the media continue to face challenges, the Maguindanao Massacre will serve as a constant reminder of their purpose and values they hold dear.

Dabet Castaneda-Panelo of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said, "'Yung role natin as media, as being the fourth state, being vanguard, and watchdog of society, ay hindi lang natin kakalimutan, yun pa rin yung ating pinapanindigan, we're here to stay.

[Translation: Our role as media, as being the fourth state, being vanguard, and watchdog of society, is that we can't forget. It is what we will stand for, we're here to stay.]