DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Major print, television, radio, and online news agencies from across the country have petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow live coverage and streaming for the promulgation of the decision in the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre case on December 19.
The three-page petition letter, addressed to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, was signed and submitted by officers from 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.
In the petition, media organizations also asked “to designate a specific area within the courtroom as a media area/gallery for the reporters and cameramen to stay during the promulgation.”
The petition noted that over the last 10 years, the widows and orphans of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre have only been able to follow the trial via after-hearing reports and off-court broadcast by the news media.
“Allowing live coverage would allow families unable to travel to Manila to immediately hear the decision on the 58 counts of murder of Judge Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes residing Judge, Branch 221 of the regional trial court of Quezon City,” the NUJP said.
Majority of the families of the victims reside in General Santos City, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao.
The petition also stated that the transparency made possible by a live broadcast would help boost public trust in the judicial system.
Fifty-eight individuals, 32 of whom were journalists, were executed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. Members of the Ampatuan clan were accused of being the mastermind of the massacre.
The Ampatuan massacre is considered to be the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines and the single deadliest attack against the media in the world.
Other signatories in the letter are Carolyn O. Arguillas, editor in chief of MindaNews; Ariel Sebellino, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI); Jamela Alindogan, representing the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
Also signatories to the petition were a representative of Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation; Amelia Cabusao, editor of Mindanao Times; Camille Diola, editor of philstar.com and Interaksyon; Herbie Gomez, editor in chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily; The Mindanao Cross; Grace de la Pena, vice president for News, GMA7 Network; Radyo ni Juan Network.
Maria Ressa, editor in chief of Rappler; Ging Reyes, head of News and Current affairs, ABS-CBN; Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files; Abel Ulanday, associate editor of Philippine Daily Inquirer and editor in chief of inquirer.net.
Luchi Cruz-Valdez, head of News and Public Affairs Department, News5; Ed Lingao, co-anchor of The Chiefs program of News 5; Manuel Mogato, Pulitzer Prize awardee and former Reuters correspondent; and Joyce Panares of The Manila Standard. (davaotoday.com)