Court handling Ampatuan Massacre declared a “special court”
In a 28 June 2011 resolution, the Supreme Court en banc granted the petition filed by the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) and Alyansa ng Filipino Mamamahayag (AFIMA, Alliance of Filipino Journalists) asking that Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City be named as “a special court which should have no other duties but the trial of Maguindanao massacre cases.”
“The Regional Trial Court, branch 221 of Quezon City is also GRANTED full authority to resolve any matter and issue which may arise from the said cases, including issues cognizable by other special courts without need of further designation by this Court,” the resolution read.
The High Court also approved the current policy being implemented by the Executive Judge of QC RTC which exempts Branch 221 from any raffle of new cases. The High Court said that the Court’s exemption from raffles will continue “until the Presiding Judge decides the aforementioned cases or upon further orders from this Court.”
The designated assisting judges will handle other pending cases already pending before QC RTC Branch 221, the High Court said, adding that the assisting judges have been assigned earlier in pursuant to Administrative Order Nos. 19-2010, 54-2010, and 150-2010.
According to the 28 June 2011 resolution, both the Department of Justice and the defense lawyers agreed to the designation of QC RTC Branch 221 as a special court. “All parties called for the speedy disposition of the case by conducting daily marathon hearings, citing material factors such as the large number of accused, victims, and witnesses involved in the trial, as compelling reasons therefor.”
It quoted Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s comment which said “(Ampatuan Jr.) had already previously invoked his right to speedy trial and the early resolution of the cases filed against him during the preliminary investigation conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ).”
Last 14 June 2011, the Supreme Court allowed with conditions and without establishing the ruling as a precedent the live coverage of hearings on the multiple murder case filed against Ampatuan Jr. and 195 other accused for the killing of 57 persons on 23 November 2009. The Public Information Office of the Supreme Court did a test live webcast of the 28 June 2011 hearing.
Freeze order on Ampatuan assets extended
The Court of Appeals (CA) in Manila extended up to 2 December 2011 the freeze order it issued over assets and bank accounts of 28 Ampatuan clan members and their cohorts. This is the second time the appellate court extended the freeze order. (See GMANews Online’s 5 July 2011 report: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/225311/nation/ca-extends-freeze-order-vs-assets-of-ampatuan-clan)
The CA Special Second Division, in a 67-page resolution, junked the motions filed by the Ampatuans to lift the freeze order issued 6 June 2011.
“The effectivity of the Freeze Order is extended up to 02 December 2011 or for a period not exceeding six (6) months, from 06 June 2011, pursuant to Section 53(b) of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC. Let the records of this case be transmitted to the Regional Trial Court for consolidation with any pending civil forfeiture proceedings, in accordance with Section 56 of AM. No. 05-11-04-SC,” the resolution read as quoted in the news.
The freeze order was issued on 6 June 2011 upon the petition of the Anti-money Laundering Council (AMLC).