21 June 2011

Maguindanao massacre trial live online

Chief Justice Renato C. Corona has ordered the live video webcast of the Maguindanao massacre trial through the Supreme Court’s (SC) website, www.sc.judiciary.gov.ph.

The directive that would make the court trial accessible to viewers worldwide, continuously and without interruption, was issued to Court Administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas P. Marquez.


Responding to the directive, Marquez said: “We will try to do a test webcast by next week.” Trials are conducted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) every Wednesday and Thursday.

Marquez said the SC’s Public Information Office (PIO) will now restructure the website and acquire the technical requirements to comply with the order of the Chief Justice.

With the directive, the Maguindanao massacre may now be viewed using computers or mobile Internet services and even cellular telephones.

Earlier, the SC allowed the live television and radio coverage of the trial of the cases involving the 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 57 persons died, 32 of them journalists.

But the SC said its ruling cannot be used as precedent in other cases since it was adopted only after considering the peculiar circumstances of the trial.

It said that the present courtroom being used at the Quezon City RTC cannot accommodate the numerous parties involved in the trial of the cases – family members of the victims and the accused and the accused themselves, witnesses, prosecutors, and members of the media.

The decision granted the petitions of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and television networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7, and the letter of President Aquino sent to Chief Justice Corona.

Foremost of the guidelines was that any television or radio station operator who would desire to air live coverage of the trial must first file an application with the office of Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes who conducts the trial.

According to Marquez, only one television camera will be allowed inside the courtroom and will be under the control of the court from where all other television and radio stations could hook up.

He pointed out that any television or radio station allowed to air live coverage of the trial should air the day’s proceedings from start to finish without any interruptions like a commercial break or commentaries or voice annotations, except to describe certain actions inside the court like the turning over to the judge of certain documents by any of the parties.

Primary suspects in the Maguindanao massacre are members of the Ampatuan clan. Its patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., pleaded not guilty to the multiple murder charges filed against him and his family members by the Department of Justice.

The full text of the coverage guidelines:

(a) An audio-visual recording of the Maguindanao massacre cases may be made both for documentary purposes and for transmittal to live broadcasting;

(b) Media entities must file with the trial court a letter of application, manifesting that they intend to broadcast the audio-visual recording (AVR) of the proceedings; no selective or partial coverage shall be allowed and no media entity shall be allowed to broadcast the proceedings without an application duly approved by the trial court;

(c) A single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously inside the courtroom to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala of the trial court; no panning and zooming shall be allowed to avoid unduly highlighting or downplaying incidents in the proceedings; The SC Public Information Office and the Office of the Court Administrator shall coordinate and assist the trial court on the physical set-up of the camera and equipment;

(d) The transmittal of the AVR from inside the courtroom to the media entities shall be conducted in such a way that the least physical disturbance shall be ensured;

(e) The broadcasting of the proceedings for a particular day must be continuous and in its entirety;

(f) No commercial break or any other gap shall be allowed until the day’s proceedings are adjourned, except during the period of recess call by the trial court and during portions of the proceedings wherein the public is ordered excluded;

(g) The proceedings shall be broadcast without any voice-overs, except brief annotations of scenes depicted therein as may be necessary to explain them at the start or at the end of the scene;

(h) No repeat airing of the AVR shall be allowed until after the finality of judgment, except brief footages and still images derived from or cartographic sketches of scenes based on the recording, only for news purposes, which shall likewise observe the sub judice rule and be subject to the contempt power of the court;

(i) The original AVR shall be deposited in the National Museum and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and exhibition; and

 (j) The AVR of the proceedings shall be made under the supervision and control of the trial court.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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