Aquino backs calls for televised Philippine massacre trial

MANILA, November 17, 2010 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday backed calls for the trial of a Muslim politician accused of the country’s worst political massacre to be aired live on national television.

Aquino told reporters that the more that people learned about the atrocity the lower would be the chances of such a massacre happening again, supporting calls by press groups for the hearings to be broadcast.

“It will be educational for the rest of the people to find out what transpired… (what conditions) produced such an atrocity, and what steps should be done to prevent the same from happening again,” he added.

Fifty-seven people were abducted and murdered in the troubled southern province of Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 allegedly as part of a plot by a powerful Muslim ruling clan to stop a rival’s bid for political power.

Eighty-two people including six senior members of the clan have been detained and one of them, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, is on trial along with 17 police officers for the murders.
Thirty-two of the victims were local journalists covering Maguindanao politics ahead of May 2010 elections. Local press organisations have urged the Supreme Court to order the trial to be aired live on television and radio.

The lower court handling the case on Wednesday ordered the once-weekly court hearings to be held twice weekly from December to speed up the trial amid concerns the process could take years to reach a verdict.

Several hundred witnesses are scheduled to testify, with just five having completed their turn at the witness stand.

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