hearsay not good enough

13 January 2010

Court should allow live coverage of Ampatuan trial
Neal Cruz

Why is live coverage by the media of the Ampatuan trial being prohibited? Isn’t that a denial of the public’s right to information? I understand that the judge wants to avoid the circus atmosphere that sometimes descends on an event when competing television networks jockey for vantage points. But that can easily be avoided by assigning one or two pool cameras and limiting them to a small part of the courtroom and then sharing the footage with the other networks. The same goes for print reporters. For the public, closed-circuit cameras can broadcast the trial to TV sets outside.

The alternative is to deny the people the right to view a very important trial. What is being tried here is not a sex crime or a family quarrel where intimate details are dredged up by the lawyers. It is a heinous crime. The accused will not be denied their right to a fair trial. The people have the right to be informed how justice is done, so that they will learn, once more, that crime does not pay.

If the trial is closed to live coverage, people will start suspecting that some hanky-panky is going on, especially because the Ampatuan family is a close ally of the President. So whatever the decision will be, people will suspect that some horsetrading went on.

i so agree.   besides, the accounts of the media personnel privileged to witness the proceedings are just not good enough.   siyempre kulang-kulang sa details.   and you wonder how accurate the quickie summaries are.   nothing beats watching and hearing the proceedings, questions and testimonies, first-hand, in real time, via audio-video recordings.   anything else is hearsay.

Open Ampatuan trial to live coverage,
media and lawyers urge

John Alliage Tinio Morales

MANILA, Philippines – Media and lawyers’ groups on Monday appealed to Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to allow live coverage of the trial of the Ampatuan massacre case.

… At the launching of the People’s Task Force on Maguindanao, Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they are writing a formal letter to Reyes Tuesday, a day before the second hearing into the petition for bail filed by Ampatuan.

She said Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez had advised the NUJP to write a letter to Solis instead of filing a formal motion.

…Roan Libarios, governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said: “We are in support of the request of the NUJP and other media organizations to be allowed access to the court proceedings, subject to some safety nets.”

…At the press conference sponsored by the task force, a reporter from ABS-CBN said the news network had already sent a formal letter to Solis asking for her permission to grant the taking of video footage during the hearing for the petition for bail. But the reporter said Solis denied the request in just a matter of “five minutes.”

Should the judge deny the request made by the NUJP, Paraan said that the group would definitely file a formal motion for the scheduled third hearing on January 20.

Thomas Prado, national secretary of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, advised the NUJP that its formal letter should be “attached to a formal motion.”

Should Judge Solis again deny the motion for live coverage, Prado said, “I think there is a way to bring it up to the Supreme Court.”

Even the Supreme Court has long settled in its jurisprudence that fears over trial by publicity would not influence the decision of the court of justice, private prosecutor Harry Roque said.

He cited a Supreme Court ruling on the request of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines for the live radio-TV coverage of the plunder trial against deposed president Joseph Estrada in 2001.

In that decision, the Supreme Court laid three reasons for the televised recording of public events: First, the hearings are of historic significance; second, cases involve matters of vital concern to the people who have a fundamental right to know how their government is conducted; and third, the audio-visual presentation is essential for the education and civic training of the people.

The high tribunalsaid that the live recording of public events is, above all, for “documentary purposes.”

The high court said the recording could be useful in preserving the essence of the proceeding in a way print cannot quite do. It added that the recording could be used by appellate courts in the event of a review.

In the ruling, the magistrates clearly laid out conditions for live media coverage, including the recording of the trial in its entirety, installation of cameras in inconspicuous places, reason of documentary purposes, and the court supervision of the recording.

JV Bautista, former party-list representative and IBP member, said that in theory, trials must always be made public, as long as the media “do not turn the hearing into a circus.”

Quoting US court decisions and academic studies, Roquesaid that the live coverage of public events would compel “everyone included in the hearing to be at their best.”

Prado added that the public could scrutinize the competence of the public prosecutors in the performance of their duties, especially so that “we have rusty public prosecutors.” On the part of the defense, the public can see judge whether the accused is lying or not.

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