Journalists press for live coverage of Maguindanao massacre verdict
MANILA, Philippines – Twenty media agencies and practitioners petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow the live coverage of the promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre case, which is scheduled for Dec. 19.
The groups who filed the petition — the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) — said this was aimed at allowing relatives of slain victims to monitor the situation, particularly those living far from Metro Manila.
“Allowing live coverage would allow families unable to travel to Manila to immediately hear the decision on the 58 counts of murder of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes presiding Judge, Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,” the NUJP said.
“Majority of the families of the victims reside in General Santos City, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao,” they added.
According to the groups, such coverage would ensure transparency and increase public trust in the judiciary.
“The petition also cited that the transparency made possible by a live broadcast would help boost public trust in the judicial system,” they explained.
Aside from the NUJP, there were other signatories to the petition, which includes local and foreign mainstream news outlets, broadcasting companies, provincial dailies, regional news sites, alternative press, and freelance journalists.
The petition was signed by Elizabeth Panelo, NUJP secretary-general; Melinda Quintos de Jesus, CMFR executive director; and Malou Mangahas, PCIJ executive director.
Here is the list of supporting individuals and organizations:
- Carolyn O. Arguillas, editor in chief of MindaNews
- Ariel Sebellino, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI)
- Jamela Alindogan, representing the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP)
- Amelia Cabusao, editor of Mindanao Times
- Camille Diola, editor of philstar.com and Interaksyon
- Herbie Gomez, editor in chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily
- Maria Ressa, editor in chief of Rappler
- Ging Reyes, head of News and Current Affairs, ABS-CBN
- Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files
- Abel Ulanday, associate editor of Philippine Daily Inquirer and editor in chief of INQUIRER.net
- Luchi Cruz-Valdez, head of News and Public Affairs Department, News5
- Ed Lingao, co-anchor of “The Chiefs” program of News 5
- Manuel Mogato, Pulitzer Prize awardee and former Reuters correspondent
- Joyce Pañares of The Manila Standard
- Radyo ni Juan Network
- Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp.
- The Mindanao Cross
On Monday, it was announced that the promulgation would take place at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. This comes 10 years after 58 individuals — 32 of them media workers — were killed in the single deadliest attack against the press in the world.
The attack happened on Nov. 22, 2009, when journalists joined a convoy of Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu who was on the way Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, then-Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Buluan town.
The vice mayor was going against then-Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay for the post of Maguindanao governor, which was then held by Datu Unsay Sr.
However, the convoy, which other women and members of media were gunned down on the highway in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan town.
Just recently, lawyer Nena Santos who represented 38 out of the 58 victims, said that they were optimistic about the possibility that a guilty verdict would be handed out to the accused, especially the Ampatuan family members.
But should there be no conviction, Santos said it could only mean that press freedom in the country was as good as dead.
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