Voting unanimously, the Supreme Court today partially granted pro hac vice (for this one particular occasion) the request for live broadcast by television and radio of the trial court proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre cases subject to the guidelines set by the Court.
In a 15-page resolution penned by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Court said: “It is about time to craft a win-win situation that shall not compromise rights in the criminal administration of justice, sacrifice press freedom and allied rights, and interfere with the integrity, dignity and solemnity of judiciary proceedings.”
The Court held that one apparent circumstance that sets the Maguindanao Massacre cases apart from the libel case filed by the late President Corazon C. Aquino and the trial against deposed President Joseph E. Estrada at the Sandiganbayan is the impossibility of accommodating all interested parties, even the private complainants/families of the victims and other witnesses, inside the courtroom. “Technology tends to provide the only solution to break the inherent limitations of the courtroom, to satisfy the imperative of a transparent, open and public trial,” held the Court.
The Court said that the indication of “serious risks” posed by live media coverage to the accused’s right to due process, left unexplained and unexplored in the era obtaining in Aquino and Estrada, has left a blow to the exercise of press freedom and the right to public information.
“The rationale for an outright total prohibition was shrouded, as it is now, inside the comfortable cocoon of a feared speculation which no scientific study in the Philippine setting confirms, and which fear, if any, may be dealt with by safeguards and safety nets under existing rules and exacting regulations,” it said.
The following are the guidelines:
- An audio-visual recording of the Maguindanao massacre cases may be made both for documentary purposes and for transmittal to live broadcast broadcasting;
- Media entities must file with the trial court a letter of application, manifesting that they intend to broadcast the audio-visual recording (AVR) of the proceedings; no selective or partial coverage shall be allowed and no media entity shall be allowed to broadcast the proceedings without an application duly approved by the trial court;
- A single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously inside the courtroom to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala of the trial court; no panning and zooming shall be allowed to avoid unduly highlighting or downplaying incidents in the proceedings; The SC Public Information Office and the Office of the Court Administrator shall coordinate and assist the trial court on the physical set-up of the camera and equipment;
- The transmittal of the AVR from inside the courtroom to the media entities shall be conducted in such a way that the least physical disturbance shall be ensured;
- The broadcasting of the proceedings for a particular day must be continuous and in its entirety;
- No commercial break or any other gap shall be allowed until the day’s proceedings are adjourned, except during the period of recess call by the trial court and during portions of the proceedings wherein the public is ordered excluded;
- The proceedings shall be broadcast without any voice-overs, except brief annotations of scenes depicted therein as may be necessary to explain them at the start or at the end of the scene;
- No repeat airing of the AVR shall be allowed until after the finality of judgment, except brief footages and still images derived from or cartographic sketches of scenes based on the recording, only for news purposes, which shall likewise observe the sub judice rule and be subject to the contempt power of the court;
- The original AVR shall be deposited in the National Museum and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and exhibition; and
- The AVR of the proceedings shall be made under the supervision and control of the tr5ial court.
The Supreme Court shall create a special committee which shall forthwith study, design, and recommend appropriate arrangements, implementing regulations, and administrative matters referred to it by the Court concerning the live broadcast of the proceedings pro hac vice, in accordance with the above-outlined guidelines.
Likewise, all other present directives in the conduct of the proceedings of the trial court (i.e., prohibition on recording devices such as still cameras, tape recorders; and allowable number of media practitioners inside the courtroom) shall be observed in addition to these guidelines.
One of the petitions was filed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Inc., relatives of the victims, individual journalists from various media entities, and members of the academe, while the other was the letter dated November 22, 2010 to Chief Justice Renato C. Corona of President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III, who came out “in support of those who have petitioned [the Supreme Court] to permit television and radio broadcast of the trial,”which was also treated as a petition.
“Indeed, the Court cannot gloss over what advances technology has to offer in distilling the abstract discussion of key constitutional precepts into the workable context. Technology per se has always been neutral. It is the use and regulation thereof that need fine-tuning. Law and technology can work to the advantage and furtherance of the various rights herein involved, within the contours of defined guidelines,” the Court said. (AM No. 10-11-5-SC, Re: Petition for Radio and Television Coverage of the Multiple Murder Cases against Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, et al.; AM No. 10-11-7-SC, Re: Letter of President Benigno S. Aquino III for the Live Media Coverage of the Maguindanao Massacre Trial, June 14, 2011)