[JURIST] The Quezon City Trial Court in Manila on Thursday issued arrest warrants for 189 suspects for their alleged role in the November 2009 massacre [CSM backgrounder] in semi-autonomous Maguindanao province that left 57 dead. Eight more individuals are also wanted in connection with the killings, but they are already in custody [Manila Bulletin report] on separate charges for allegedly mobilizing a rebellion to interfere with investigations into the massacre, including Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son. Also Thursday, the Philippine police reported that 142 of the wanted suspects are still at large [AP report]. The arrest orders were issued [WP report] only a day before the campaign period for the May 2011 parliamentary elections kicks off.
Last month, the Philippine Department of Justice (PDOJ) [official website] charged 197 people with murder [JURIST report] in connection with the November 2009 killings. Among those charged was Andal Ampatuan Sr., a former political ally to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; BBC profile]. In December, the PDOJ began the trial [JURIST report] of more than 600 people charged with rebellion for allegedly interfering with government operations following the killings. Several of Ampatuan Sr.'s sons, including Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of the southern Philippine town of Datu Unsay, have also been charged. Ampatuan Jr. has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 41 counts of murder. Following the killings, Arroyo imposed martial law [JURIST report] and suspended habeas corpus in the province. She later lifted the conditions, following international pressure and domestic legal challenges [JURIST reports].