MANILA -- Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has filed a bill seeking to authorize live media coverage of court proceedings in the Philippines.
The bill, called "Sunshine in the Courtroom Act," is currently pending in the House Committee on Justice.
Section 3 of the bill states that justices and judges of the Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court and Metropolitan Circuit Court may, at the discretion of that judge, permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any court proceeding over which that justice or judge presides.
However, the same justice or judge is mandated not to permit it if he or she determines that the action would constitute a violation of the due process rights of any party.
The bill mandates the court to order the face and voice of a party or witness to be disguised or otherwise obscured in such manner as to render the party or witness unrecognizable to the public or broadcast audience of the trial proceeding if it would threaten the: the safety of the individual; the security of the court; the integrity of future or ongoing law enforcement operations; or the interest of justice.
The bill provides that the parties to a case or any witness has the right to request that his face, image and voice be obscured.
It also prohibits the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any part of the conversations between attorneys and their clients, between co-counsel of a client, between adverse counsels, or between counsel and the presiding judge or justice.
In his explanatory note, Rodriguez explained that the right to a public trial is given to the accused in order to prevent abuses that may be committed by the court to the prejudice of the defendant, who is also entitled to the support of his friends and relatives.
However, the lawmaker noted that the size of the courtrooms in the Philippines only allows a few people to actually observe the proceedings.
"This can be remedied by allowing for the live coverage of the trial. Aside from this, media coverage will also ensure that the parties in the proceeding are answerable to the public in general and minimize the use of underhanded tricks or tactics that would prejudice any of the parties," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said allowing full media coverage also allows the public to get first hand information on what is happening or how the trial is proceeding.
It also provides another form of documentation on what happened during the trial which may help the appellate courts if ever the case is appealed.
"While it may be true that there are disadvantages to having live media coverage, it is also true that the benefits definitely outweigh them," Rodriguez said.