A judge's decision today to set a September 1 trial date for several defendants in the Maguindanao massacre highlights a positive development in what has been a very ugly story. The judge appeared determined to move the case forward and, for now, seemed able to keep the large legal teams in line.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Justice Jocelyn Solis-Reyes needed only 45 minutes to set a no-nonsense tone for a case that is going to be closely watched in the Philippines and around the world. Recently elected President Benigno Aquino and his justice secretary, Leila de Lima, have made it clear that they grasp the importance of building a dynamic legal system to match their aspirations for national growth. De Lima has been calling the Maguindanao trial a "litmus test" for a Philippines judicial system that has been known for extended delays and pervasive conflict of interest.