Supreme Court asked to allow live media coverage of court ruling on Ampatuan Massacre

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 December) – Print, television, radio, and online news agencies across the country have asked the Supreme Court in a petition filed Tuesday to allow “live coverage and streaming” of the promulgation of judgment on the Ampatuan Massacre cases on December 19.

Children of the media victims in the infamous Ampatuan massacre 10 years ago continue to cry for justice as they visited the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on 17 November 2019. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

The petition, addressed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, also asked that the court designate a specific area within the courtroom as a media area/gallery during the promulgation.

The petition noted that in the last 10 years, the widows and orphans of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre, most of them based in Mindanao, have only been able to follow the trial via post-hearing reports and off-court broadcast by the news media.

According to the petition, allowing live coverage would allow families unable to travel to Manila to immediately know the decision of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 in Quezon City, on the 58 counts of murder.

Fifty-eight persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, on November 23, 2009 when an estimated hundred armed men led by then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. stopped a convoy led by Genalyn, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, en route to the next town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, to file his certificate of candidacy for Governor.

Majority of the families of the victims reside in General Santos City, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao.

The petition also said the transparency made possible by a live broadcast would help boost public trust in the judicial system.

The petition was signed and submitted by the officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that are part of the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All network of independent and professional media agencies.

The other signatories are: Ging Reyes for ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs; Jamela Alindogan for the board of Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP); Grace de la Pena for GMA7 News; Eva Tan for the Mindanao Cross; Herbie Gomez for Mindanao Gold Star Daily; Amalia Cabusao for Mindanao Times; Carolyn O. Arguillas for MindaNews; Luchi Cruz-Valdez for News5 News and Public Affairs Department; Fr. Rogelio Tabuada, OMI for Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation; Abel Ulanday for Philippine Daily Inquirer and; Ariel Sebellino for Philippine Press Institute (PPI); Camille Diola for and Interaksyon; Dodong Solis for Radyo ni Juan Network; Maria Ressa for Rappler; Ellen Tordesillas for Vera Files; Ed Lingao of News 5; Manuel Mogato of News5 Digital; and Joyce Panares of The Manila Standard. (MindaNews)