Ampatuan lawyer OK with live trial coverage

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2011 02:27 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2011 05:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The lawyer of Maguindanao massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan welcomed Wednesday the Supreme Court's decision to allow live coverage of the massacre trial in Taguig.

Speaking to ANC, lawyer Howard Calleja said he and his client respect the rule of law and will abide by the SC decision.

"Whether or not the proceedings will be televised, we will respect that," he said.

Calleja maintained that his client was in Manila when the massacre occurred. He earlier filed a motion before the Court of Appeals, asking that Zaldy be removed from the list of suspects in the killings.

Malacañang also praised the Supreme Court for allowing the live coverage of the trial, subject to several restrictions.

It said the Supreme Court ruling is a vote of confidence in the justice system "as the public will be given an opportunity to see the judicial system at work and the presentation of evidence and arguments on both sides."

It said live coverage of the massacre trial "will provide our people an opportunity to see the justice system at work; to understand the horror and magnitude of the mass murder that took place; and will inform the public as to the reasons why such a brazen and cold-blooded act of impunity could take place," the Palace said.

Meanwhile, Atty. Romel Bagares, executive director of the Center for International Law (Centerlaw), also commended the court for acknowledging the public's right to information on the massacre trial.

He noted that the ruling advances on the position of the Court from the previous request for live coverage on the Estrada plunder case.

"We appreciate the effort of the Supreme Court to broaden the rights of the public to information and the need of media organizations to gather news. It's just that some of the guidelines set for the coverage need to be fine-tuned. That should be clarified by the representatives of the broadcast networks. They would be in a better position to enlighten the Court," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Under SC guidelines, its public information office will put up a camera inside the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 and simultaneously feed footage to TV networks and radio stations outside the courtroom.

Media outlets are required to apply for accreditation with the RTC before they would be allowed to broadcast the trial. All the hearings must be aired live without commercial breaks and without annotation by news anchors except during court breaks.

It said networks that cover the proceedings must commit to airing all the hearings until the trial finishes. Trial days are currently scheduled every Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez earlier said the trial could last another 1-2 years. He said the SC guidelines will ensure that media coverage of the trial will be impartial.

"Oftentimes, we only learn of the decision. We don't know the basis for the decision. We inject our own speculations and our own views how that decision came about. If one is shown the entire proceedings, he will be more well informed and know the basis for the decision," he said.