Gov’t pleads for live airing of Maguindanao massacre trialBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The government, through the office of the Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling barring the live broadcast of the Maguindanao massacre trial.
In a motion for reconsideration, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said live radio and television coverage of the trial would not be prejudicial to the constitutional rights of the accused.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, who is hearing the multiple murder case, was furnished a copy of the pleading.
In an en banc resolution on Oct. 23, the Supreme Court partially granted accused Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s motion for reconsideration of its June 14, 2011, ruling.
The Oct. 23 en banc resolution modified portions of the guidelines for media coverage issued on June 14, 2011, which initially allowed live media coverage of the Maguindanao massacre based on a set of guidelines.
The high court ruled that in a clash among competing interests, the balance should always be weighed in favor of the accused.
But the solicitor general stressed the case should be aired live as “it is through a public showing of the trial that transparency in the administration of justice is achieved.”
He said that keeping the landmark trial out of the public eye would cause the people’s interest to wane as time goes by.
The Maguindanao massacre where 57 persons were brutally killed occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. The principal suspects are members of the politically powerful Ampatuan clan that controlled the province and other parts of Mindanao.
“Media coverage of trials of sensational cases—more so those where the accused are reasonably perceived to be politically well-entrenched, financially strong and violently capable—should instead be encouraged,” the OSG said in its pleading.
The Public Interest Law Center, which represents some of the heirs of the 57 massacre victims, has filed a similar appeal in the Supreme Court.
According to the OSG, live media coverage of the judicial proceedings should be viewed generally for what it is and for its propitious influence on the administration of justice.
“To be sure, while pervasive publicity is not per se prejudicial to the right of the accused to a fair trial, the impartiality of a judge is not necessarily affected,” the OSG noted.
The solicitor general also stressed that “a criminal case is not decided by the mob of opinion but by a judge who is learned in law and whose impartiality is expectedly unaffected by a barrage of publicity.”