EXCLUSIVE: Justice Secretary: Maguindanao massacre trial to be wrapped up this year

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — Almost ten years since the bloody Maguindanao massacre, the Justice Department is finally wrapping up its case.

"There are just five remaining accused who are presenting evidence, so we believe we can wind up the trial of the case this year," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"We're hoping that by 2019 a decision will be rendered by the court," he added.

This is significantly sooner than an earlier promise from Malacanang Palace that the case would be resolved by 2021.

Guevarra's announcement also comes after the Palace said President Rodrigo Duterte wanted a partial judgment against some of the accused within the year.

 

The Maguindanao massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack on media workers. At least 58 people, including 32 journalists and their staff, were killed on November 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan.

The victims had been part of a media convoy to file the candidacy of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu in his run for provincial governor against Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. Mangudadatu, who had 15 relatives and supporters in the convoy, still sits as governor today.

The Justice Department previously charged 188 persons out of 197 initially accused in what is considered the largest criminal trial in the Philippines since World War II. The primary suspect was the Ampatuan patriarch, Andal Sr., who died in 2015 while the case was bring tried.

The case is being handled by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, under Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.