The Supreme Court will decide today, Tuesday, whether or not it will allow live coverage and online streaming of the release of the decision in the Maguindanao massacre murder case set on Thursday, Dec. 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.
He also said Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes had not reported receiving threats on her life in connection with her handling of the Maguindanao massacre case and 10 days before the promulgation of her judgment on Dec. 19.
Peralta said Reyes had not even requested security assistance or security personnel to protect her.
“We are always after the security of a judge. If they need security, then we provide them. But, so far, Judge Reyes has not yet asked for a security detail to protect her,” Peralta said.
He said the recommendation included details on how many reporters would be allowed inside or outside the courtroom in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, but that would ultimately depend on the en banc’s decision.
Various media organizations have written to the Supreme Court requesting live coverage of the promulgation of judgment, stressing the high public interest involved in the case.
Fifty-eight people were killed on Nov. 23, 2009 as they were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of the then-gubernatorial candidate and now-House Rep. Esmael 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, two 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 posed 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-National Capital Regional Police Office, who said on Saturday they would be requiring a separate accreditation for reporters.
NCRPO Chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas on Sunday said reporters 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 would 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 the judiciary, they have control over the premises,” he said.