Media groups seek live coverage of Maguindanao massacre judgment day

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    MEDIA organizations and personalities yesterday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to allow live coverage and streaming of the December 19 promulgation of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

    In a one-page letter addressed to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) cited the “undeniable public importance” of the case, which they said is considered as “a litmus test” of the Philippine democratic and judicial system.

    “The trial of the Maguindanao massacre has been followed by the families mostly through after-hearing reports and off-court broadcasts in the past years. It is now their hope that they be allowed to hear the decision simultaneously as it is read in court. The promulgation is the culmination of their fight for justice at the lower court,” the petitioners told the high court.

    “The live coverage and/or streaming would also allow the public to hear firsthand how the lower court would decide on the matter. It would boost the public’s trust on transparency and accountability of court processes particularly in how fair and just the case has been decided,” they added.

    Named as co-petitioners of the three media groups are Carol Arguillaes, editor-in-chief of MindaNews; Ariel Sebelleno, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute; Jamela Alindogan, president of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines; Abel Ulanday, editor-in-chief of Inquirer.net and associate editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer; Camille Diola, editor-in-chief Philippine Star; and Interaksyon’s Ed Lingao; Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files; Ging Reyes, senior vice president of ABS-CBN; Herbie Gomez, editor-in-chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily; Luchi Cruz Valdez, head of TV 5’s news and public affairs department; Maria Ressa, chief executive officer of Rappler; Joyce Panares, Manny Mogato, the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation, Radyo ni Juan Network and the Mindanao Cross.

    The petitioners also asked the SC to “designate a specific area within the courtroom as a media area or gallery for the reporters and cameramen to stay during the promulgation.”

    The controversial case in which 58 victims were killed, including 32 print and broadcast journalists, by gunmen allegedly upon orders of members of the influential Ampatuan clan should have been decided last month as it was submitted for resolution as early as August this year.

    However, QC RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes asked the SC for additional time before coming up with decision, citing the long list of accused and petitioners and the voluminous court filings submitted by the prosecution and defense panels.

    Under the Rules, a court has 90 days upon which to issue judgment after a case has been submitted for resolution.

    The SC granted Solis-Reyes’ request for a one-month extension.

    Charged as principal suspect in the multiple murder cases are former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his siblings, former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

    Their father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. who is also among those charged in the case, died in 2015 while under detention due to a lingering illness.