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Re: Request Radio-Tv Coverage Of The Trial In The Sandiganbayan Of The Plunder Cases Against Erap

FACTS (June 2001)


 The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) sent a letter requesting the SC to allow the live
media coverage of the anticipated trial of the plunder and other criminal cases filed against former Pres.
Estrada before the Sandiganbayan “to assure the public of full transparency in the proceedings of an
unprecedented case in our history.”
 The petition averred that public interest should be evident bearing in mind the right of the public to vital
information affecting the nation.
o In effect, the petition seeks the re-examination of the October 23, 1991 resolution of the SC in a
case for libel filed by then President Aquino.
o The said resolution resolved to prohibit live radio and television coverage of court proceedings,
in view order to protect the parties’ right to due process, to prevent the distraction of the
participants in the proceedings and to avoid miscarriage of justice. Video footages of court
hearings for news purposes shall be limited and restricted.

ISSUE + RULING
Should live radio and TV coverage of the court proceedings be allowed? NO, because of prejudicial
publicity.
 The propriety of granting or denying the instant petition involve the weighing out of the constitutional
guarantees of freedom of the press and the right to public information, on the one hand, and the
fundamental rights of the accused, on the other hand, along with the constitutional power of a court to
control its proceedings in ensuring a fair and impartial trial. When these rights race against one another,
the right of the accused must be preferred to win.
 With the possibility of losing not only liberty but also the very life of the accused, it behooves all to make
absolutely certain than an accused receives a verdict solely on the basis of a just and dispassionate
judgment, a verdict that would come only after the presentation of credible evidence testified to by6
unbiased witnesses unswayed by any kind of pressure, whether open or subtle, in proceedings that are
devoid of histrionics that might detract from its basic aim to ferret veritable facts free from improper
influence, and decreed by a judge with an unprecedented mind, unbridled by running emotions or
passions.
o While it may be difficult to quantify the influence, or pressure that media can bring to bear on
them directly and through the shaping of public opinion, it is a fact, nonetheless, that, indeed, it
does so in so many ways and in varying degrees.
o The conscious or unconscious effect that such coverage may have on the testimony of
witnesses and the decision of judges cannot be evaluated but, it can likewise be said, it is not at
all unlikely for a vote of guilt or innocence to yield to it. To say that actual prejudice should first
be present would leave to near nirvana the subtle threats to justice that a disturbance of the
mind so indispensable to the calm and deliberate dispensation of justice can create. LOL
 An accused has a right to a public trial but it is a right that belongs to him, more than anyone else,
where his life or liberty can be held critically in balance.
o A public trial is not synonymous with publicized trial; it only implies that the court doors must be
open to those who wish to come, sit in the available seats, conduct themselves with decorum
and observe the trial process.
o The courts recognize the constitutionally embodied freedom of the press and the right to public
information. Nevertheless, within the courthouse, the overriding consideration is still the
paramount right of the accused to due process, which must never be allowed to suffer
diminution in its constitutional proportions.

MR FACTS (Sept. 2001)


 The Secretary of Justice filed a MR arguing that there is really no conflict between the right of the
people to public information and the freedom of the press, on the one hand, and the right of the
accused to a fair trial, on the other hand; that if there is a clash, it must be resolved in favor of the right
of the people and the press because the people are entitled to information.
RULING: In lieu of live TC and radio coverage of the trial, the Court resolved to order the audio-visual
recording of the trial for documentary purposes, considering the significance of the trial before the
Sandiganbayan of former President Estrada and the importance of preserving the records thereof.
 There are several reasons for such televised recording.
o First, the hearings are of historic significance. They are an affirmation of our commitment to the
rule that "the King is under no man, but he is under God and the law."
o Second, the Estrada cases involve matters of vital concern to our people who have a
fundamental right to know how their government is conducted. This right can be enhanced by
audio-visual presentation.
o Third, audio-visual presentation is essential for the education and civic training of the people.
Above all, there is the need to keep audio-visual records of the hearings for documentary
purposes. The recordings will be useful in preserving the essence of the proceedings in a way
that the cold print cannot quite do because it cannot capture the sights and sounds of
events. They will be primarily for the use of appellate courts in the event a review of the
proceedings, rulings, or decisions of the Sandiganbayan is sought or becomes necessary. The
accuracy of the transcripts of stenographic notes taken during the trial can be checked by
reference to the tapes.
 On the other hand, by delaying the release of the tapes for broadcast, concerns that those taking part in
the proceedings will be playing to the cameras and will thus be distracted from the proper performance
of their roles – whether as counsel, witnesses, court personnel, or judges – will be allayed.
o The possibility that parallel trials before the bar of justice and the bar of public opinion may
jeopardize, or even prevent, the just determination of the cases can be minimized. The
possibility that judgment will be rendered by the popular tribunal before the court of justice can
render its own will be avoided.
 The right of privacy of the accused is not a bar to the production of such documentary. In Ayer
Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Capulong, the Court held that "a limited intrusion into a person's privacy has
long been regarded as permissible where that person is a public figure and the information sought to be
elicited from him or to be published about him constitute matters of a public character."

DISPOSITION with conditions

WHEREFORE, an audio-visual recording of the trial of former President Estrada before the Sandiganbayan is
hereby ordered to be made, for the account of the Sandiganbayan, under the following conditions: (a) the trial
shall be recorded in its entirety, excepting such portions thereof as the Sandiganbayan may determine should
not be held public under Rule 119, §21 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure; (b) cameras shall be installed
inconspicuously inside the courtroom and the movement of TV crews shall be regulated consistent with the
dignity and solemnity of the proceedings; (c) the audio-visual recordings shall be made for documentary
purposes only and shall be made without comment except such annotations of scenes depicted therein as may
be necessary to explain them; (d) the live broadcast of the recordings before the Sandiganbayan shall have
rendered its decision in all the cases against the former President shall be prohibited under pain of contempt of
court and other sanctions in case of violations of the prohibition; (e) to ensure that the conditions are observed,
the audio-visual recording of the proceedings shall be made under the supervision and control of the
Sandiganbayan or its Division concerned and shall be made pursuant to rules promulgated by it; and (f)
simultaneously with the release of the audio-visual recordings for public broadcast, the original thereof shall be
deposited in the National Museum and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and
exhibition in accordance with law.