SC thumbs down Maguindanao massacre live coverage

The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has refused the live media coverage on the trial of Maguindanao Massacre.

At the same time, in a seven-page resolution released on Monday, the High Court partially granted the motion filed by former Maguindanao town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who opposed the live broadcast of the trial.

Ampatuan claimed the live broadcast will deprive him of his rights to due process.

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"While this court recognizes the freedom of the press and the right to public information, which by the way are rights that belong to non-direct parties to the case, the rights of the direct parties should not be forgotten," SC en banc stated in a resolution promulgated on Oct. 28.

"In a clash among these competing interests and in terms of the values the Constitution recognizes, jurisprudence makes it clear that the balance should always be weighed in favour of the accused," it explained.

Instead, SC promised to install and operate a closed-circuit broadcast system only outside the courtroom for those who want to watch the proceedings.

It also vowed to provide viewing areas in selected trial courts in Maguindanao, Koronadal, South Cotabato and General Santos City where most relatives of the accused and victims reside.

The high court said they will only allow recordings only for documentary purposes.

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The High Court explained that a camera broadcasting proceedings on live TV "has no place in a criminal trial" considering its prejudicial effects against the accused.

SC also emphasized the constitutional rights specific to the accused such as right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, as well as their rights against an impartial trial.

It also prioritized the requirement of the highest quantum of proof, which prompted justices to take a second look at earlier decision allowing live media coverage of the trial.

In June 2011, former SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales imposed conditions before allowing the live media coverage on the trial of Maguindanao Massacre trial.

Carpio-Morales, now heading the Office of the Ombudsman, prohibited voice overs during the trial except on brief annotations of scenes depicted on the trial.

She also demanded for a continuous broadcast with no commercial break except when the trial has adjourned or during break.

But relatives of the victims filed a partial reconsideration on the ruling, complaining that the conditions would produce chilling effect on all forms of expression concerning court proceedings.

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