Philippine Massacre Trial Expected To Drag On

Even if a landmark murder trial starts Wednesday in the Philippines, the accused might well die of old age before the case ends, a lawyer said. There are 196 accused, about 500 witnesses and more than 11,000 murder charges involved in the case of the worst politically motivated killings in recent Philippine history, said attorney Harry Roque. He represents the survivors of 14 massacre victims. The mayor of Maguindanao province, Andal Ampatuan Jr., and his alleged accomplices are to stand trial in the November 2009 massacre in Maguindanao. Andal Ampatuan Sr. -- the former provincial governor and the father of Ampatuan Jr. -- also has been charged in the killings. An investigation has revealed a well-planned conspiracy, in which members of the Philippine police and army also were involved, said an eight-member commission of the justice department. Yet dozens of the 196 suspects remain at large, Roque said. "It's the job of the police to arrest them. But we all know the calibre of the police. That is part of the problem," he said, adding that the Ampatuan family still controls Maguindanao. "People who were supposed to protect the people became the murderers." The wife and sister of political candidate Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu and 30 journalists were among the 57 victims killed there. Mangudadatu had sent his family members to file paperwork allowing him to run for governor of Maguindanao. Their convoy was ambushed, allegedly by the Ampatuans and their associates. The 57 bodies were recovered -- some had been shot assassination-style, and others died when their vehicles were sprayed with bullets. At least one witness also has been killed since the massacre, Roque said. Searches also continue for the remains of several other suspected victims.