SC notes GenSan’s endorsement re live media coverage of Ampatuan Massacre trial

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 February) — The Supreme Court (SC) has “resolvd to note” the city government’s earlier endorsement of a petition seeking live media coverage for the ongoing trial of the gruesome November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Councilor Elizabeth Bagonoc, the city council’s majority floorleader, said Monday they received an official communication dated February 2 from the High Court taking due notice of City Council Resolution No. 484 which supported the conduct of live television coverage
for the massacre trial.

She said the SC en banc, in a resolution issued Dec. 14, 2010, “resolved to note” the letter dated Dec. 2, 2010 of City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, endorsing Resolution 484. The en banc notice was signed by SC clerk of court Enriqueta Vidal.

Bagonoc said they issued the joint resolution in support of the petition for radio and television coverage of the multiple murder cases against the suspects led by family members of former
Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.

It also backed a letter issued by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III supporting the same petition, she said.

“We really want this (live media coverage) to happen not only because it is a major case but it involved victims who were from our own city and people who were very close to us,” she said.

The City Council resolution strongly urged the SC “to allow a live media coverage for public viewing and information on the court proceedings/trial of the multiple murder case filed against the suspects of the Maguindanao massacre.”

“This body further believes that a live coverage of the trial can be an avenue for the public to know any decision the judge may render and the faithful adherence of the lawyers to the tenets of legal ethics, thus ensuring the general public of their constitutional right to information and purview of the freedom of the press, including the delivery of swift and fair information as regards judicial functions and transparency,” the resolution said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) filed a petition before the SC last November, seeking to reverse the 1991 ruling that prohibits the live coverage of any court proceeding.

The SC earlier prohibited live coverage of the trial and the use of electronic devices to record court proceedings presided by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes.

The court referred to an en banc resolution on Oct. 22, 1991 pertaining to the libel case that former President Corazon Aquino filed against then newspaper columnist Luis Beltran.

The President endorsed the NUJP’s petition saying “it would be educational for the public to know what really transpired during the gruesome murders.”
The former Maguindanao governor’s son, former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Jr. had been tagged as principal suspect in the massacre of 58 persons, including 32 journalists, some of whom were from this city.

Former Buluan vice mayor and currently Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu sent his wife and several relatives on November 23, 2009 to Shariff Aguak town, the Ampatuan clan’s bailiwick and site of the provincial capitol, to file his certificate of candidacy for governor but were stopped along the highway in Ampatuan town,  the town before Shariff Aguak, by armed men reportedly led by Ampatuan, Jr.

The passengers in the convoy as well as five others in two vehicles that happened to pass at the wrong time, were later found murdered in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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