THE Supreme Court (SC) yesterday allowed live media coverage of the reading of the verdict on the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case on December 19 to be held inside the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
In a press briefing, SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief Brian Keith Hosaka said justices reached the decision during Tuesday’s en banc session.
Hosaka, however, said limitations and conditions were imposed by the justices.
To maintain decorum and ensure the security of all parties involved, Hosaka said no media personnel will be allowed inside the courtroom where Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes will hand down the sentences of the 101 accused.
Citing space limitations and security concerns, Hosaka noted the courtroom is expected to be packed with around 400 individuals, including relatives of the 58 victims, the 101 accused out of the 197 charged, and prosecution and defense lawyers.
“This will be a formal and official court proceeding and we want to maintain order,” he said.
As agreed upon during the en banc session, Hosaka said only two cameras and a limited number of personnel from state-owned PTV4 will be allowed inside the courtroom, but will be subject to “strict control and supervision” of the SC PIO.
One camera will be focused on Solis-Reyes and her staff who will read the verdict, while the other camera will zoom in on the relatives of the victims, the defendants, and the prosecution and defense lawyers.
Other media networks, including foreign media networks, will need to hook up with the PTV cameras for the live feed, Hosaka said.
Mobile phones, cameras and audio video recording equipment will not be allowed inside the courtroom, except for those of PTV4 and the SC PIO.
Likewise, no media interviews will be allowed before and during the promulgation of judgment.
Hosaka said the SC PIO will immediately upload the decision on the SC website.
Hosaka said reporters will have a designated media room where they can watch the courtroom proceedings where a live feed will be aired.
Hosaka said only accredited members of the media will be allowed inside Camp Bagong Diwa, the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office and where the Metro Manila district jail operated by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology is located.
“Once we come up with a list of accredited media, we will give it to the NCRPO and the BJMP. There will be a lot of screenings. I would advise that only those accredited go there,” he said.
Hosaka also advised the media to be ready in case signal jammers are activated during the promulgation of the verdict as part of the police’s overall security measure.
It will be recalled that live coverage of the murder cases was previously allowed by the SC.
This was reversed in 2015 due to lack of a uniform set of rules for the coverage and the need to protect the rights of the parties involved and maintain the dignity of court proceedings.
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) had asked the SC to allow live coverage and streaming of the promulgation of the controversial case for its “undeniable public importance.”
Petitioners said the Maguindanao massacre trial is now considered as “a litmus test” of Philippine democratic and judicial system.
The NUJP, CMFR and PCIJ were joined in the petition by several media organizations and media personalities.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) also made a similar request, asking the SC to allow government media agencies to also cover the promulgation of the case.
Among those 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.
As of Tuesday, Zaldy is still confined at the Makati Medical Center where he was brought last October after suffering a stroke.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology earlier informed the court that the former ARMM governor is undergoing therapy at the said hospital.
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.