MANILA – The Supreme Court en banc will decide on Tuesday whether or not it will allow live coverage and online streaming of the release of the decision in the Maguindanao massacre multiple murder case set on Thursday, December 19.
“There is already a recommendation from the Office of the Court Administrator and the Public Information Office but I have to consult the en banc. So you would come to know about the procedure after the en banc tomorrow,” Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta told reporters Monday.
The recommendation, he said, included details on how many reporters will be allowed inside or outside the courtroom in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, but will ultimately depend on the SC en banc’s decision.
Various media organizations have written to the Supreme Court requesting for live coverage of the promulgation of judgment stressing the high public interest involved in the case.
Fifty-eight persons were killed on November 23, 2009 as they were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of then-gubernatorial candidate and now-House Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in Shariff Aguak.
Their convoy was allegedly blocked by over a hundred armed men led by primary accused Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr.
Witnesses claimed Unsay himself shot some of the victims and ordered that they be buried in a shallow mass grave in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao while his late father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., allegedly ordered the killing of all the victims.
Among those killed were the wife, 2 sisters, relatives, supporters and lawyers of Mangudadatu and 32 journalists, in what is considered the worst election-related violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack against journalists around the world.
Also awaiting sentence are Datu Unsay’s brothers, former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao OIC Gov. Sajid Ampatuan, who are accused of conspiring and supporting the plot to kill Mangudadatu. One hundred one of the 197 accused are due for sentencing on Thursday.
The sheer number of the accused and the families of the 58 victims pose logistical and security concerns for the court.
Instead of holding the promulgation of judgment in the sala of the court hearing the case in Quezon City, it will be held inside a police camp under the control of the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO), who said on Saturday they will be requiring a separate accreditation for reporters.
NCRPO Chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas on Sunday said media must seek permission from the NCRPO Public Information Office before entering the premises but only after first securing accreditation from the high court.
Peralta said they will consider the NCRPO’s suggestion.
“We also have to take into consideration their suggestion because it is within their control because (while) this is an act of judiciary, they have control over the premises,” he said.
“We have to coordinate with them because we could not provide the security. The SC does not have yet marshals,” he explained.
SECURITY FOR THE JUDGE
Meanwhile, Peralta said the judge handling the case, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, has not requested additional security nor reported any threats.
“She has been doing her job very well. I think she gave, especially the accused, the required due process under the Constitution. We have exhausted all the trial days in order to defend themselves, she has nothing to fear,” he said.
Peralta shared the judge was actually his former student.
“She has been performing very well. She does not hesitate to read her books and ask from her peers if she has problems during the course of the trial,” he added.
Solis-Reyes has handled the case since it started in December 2010 following its transfer from Cotabato City to Quezon City and after the Quezon City judge to whom the case was initially raffled withdrew from the case.