After being accused of not doing enough to deliver justice to the Maguindanao massacre victims, Malacañang has revived calls to allow the live media coverage of the trial of some 200 people accused in the mass murder of 58 people, including 32 journalists.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda blamed the absence of a live broadcast of the trial for the impression that the Aquino administration was “doing nothing” for the massacre victims.
“The problem is it [the massacre trial] is not covered live. It’s easy to say the government is doing nothing,” he said.
He recalled that President Aquino had wanted the trial to be broadcast live in order for the public to be made aware of what was going on.
“That is one good way for us to monitor the massacre trial,” he told state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
Reversing itself, the Supreme Court granted the petition of Andal Ampatuan Jr., the principal accused, not to allow live media coverage of the trial. The high court reversed its June 14, 2011, decision allowing a live broadcast with conditions.
Trial’s slow progress
Media and human rights organizations marked the third anniversary of the 2009 massacre on Friday with a big protest rally, taking 153 coffins to represent the Maguindanao massacre and other journalist victims to Mendiola, the closest that they could get to Malacañang. They took turns assailing the Aquino administration for the slow progress of the trial.
The President made no mention of the massacre in his speech at a summit of the news media industry in Tagaytay City last Friday.
Mr. Aquino spoke in general terms about “media killings,” saying the government was “demanding the apprehension of suspects and the filing of charges that stick, resulting in justice for all involved.”
Lacierda was more categorical on Saturday, saying the administration remained “firm” in its resolve to bring justice to the massacre victims.
“We have made a promise that we will pursue the case with vigor,” he said.
“We can assure the public that the Aquino administration has the same resolve as it promised during the presidential campaign. This Maguindanao trial case is a litmus test for the judicial system, and so we are going to pursue this case with the same vigor, the same resolve as we promised the massacre victims,” he said.
“We want the case to move faster, but there are technicalities involved which the judge has to resolve,” said Lacierda, blaming the defense for flooding the court with so many motions.
He spoke of the many hours that state prosecutors spend working on the Maguindanao case.
Updates from DOJ
“If you only knew how many hours our DOJ prosecutors spend going through the evidence, gathering evidence and talking to the witnesses,” he said.
“No one can say that the Aquino administration has no interest in this case,” he said.
In the absence of a live broadcast, Lacierda said the Palace would ask the Department of Justice for updates that could be made available to the public.
Harry Roque, counsel for the families of most of the massacre victims, said he welcomed the Palace move for a reconsideration of the ban on the live media coverage of the trial.
But he was skeptical of Palace claims that there has been no letup in its efforts to pursue justice for the massacre victims.
“Victims’ families who supported him [Mr. Aquino] for president have not felt his involvement in the case. All that we hear is the mantra that it’s in the court’s hands. The reality is that the delay is a joint responsibility of the judiciary and executive branches since prosecution is an executive function,” Roque said.
The lawyer also cited a study by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation which, he said, “confirms that the executive is the weakest link in the fight against impunity since the National Prosecution Service [of the Department of Justice] only has a one-percent conviction rate for extrajudicial killings.” With a report from Jerome Aning