Five months ago, Chief Justice Renato Corona was the main speaker of the Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines (FOCAP) Prospects Forum.
He was naturally grilled but he took it all in stride.
I’d like to share again with you all my close encounter with Chief Justice Corona and what he told me about allowing live coverage of the Maguindano masacre:
Think of the children, he says
By Raissa Robles
Court officials, especially Supreme Court Chief Justices, are always difficult to interview. So when I found myself sitting at the same table with Chief Justice Renato Corona, I just had to ask him some questions.”] “]
The table also seated the dapper Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez who turned out to have plenty of fans who wanted their photos snapped with him. The occasion was the Prospects Conference held by the Foreign Correspondents Assocation of the Philippines (FOCAP) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last January 25, 2010.
Initially, I asked Corona whether it was possible for the Supreme Court to post the transcripts of the trial of the Maguindanao Massacre online, even if I have to pay through PaYPal. The spokesman Marquez said that was possible, but it would require a tedious process because the transcripts would have to be approved by both parties (the aggrieved and the accused) as well as the judge before this could be put out.
Someone seated at the same table then asked whatever happened to media’s request for live coverage of the trial.
Chief Justice Corona replied:
There is a motion pending in court to allow live television coverage. On the other hand there is a law which requires everything that is shown on television to be general patronage (GP). Now how can you have a live coverage about how a victim was raped with children watching television?
I was very much surprised by his statement. All along I thought the reason for barring live court TV was that it was against the law.
In the case of the horrendous massacre in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, it seems the only thing barring live coverage is the sickening nature of the crime, and our children need to be protected from the very viciousness of it.
But not, it seems, from vicious perpetrators of crimes like this.
Local TV programs only have two classifications – GP or PG (Parental Guidance). All newscasts, it seems, are automatically classifed as PG. Obviously, the Chief Justice does not watch the crime scene investigaton series CSI on television, which is quite gory. Or Three Feet Under, a series about a family of undertakers, or even “Nip/Tuck”, about plastic surgery.
The Chief Justice suggested a compromise. He said:
We can have a close circuit television with a big screen outside. We can filter who can watch and who cannot watch.
We tossed that idea a bit around the table. For instance, the close circuit TV could be located in Quezon City, where the sitting judge comes from, so that the trials become more accessible to more people. Right now, trials are held in the high security compound of Bicutan in Taguig where few go because it is a very remote area for coverage.
Perhaps Chief Justice Corona could consider another alternative. How about a delayed telecast of the trial where the gory parts are cut?
The idea behind live coverage is to discourage such a crime from EVER happening again. And to ensure that justice is done.
The carnage did not just kill 30 journalists two Novembers ago. That bloodbath was a warning addressed to the entire Philippine media that journalists should not cross politicians.
Meanwhile, Okey, let’s have that compromise soon and now – the close circuit TV in Quezon City. And the transcripts of ALL previous hearings, please.
Then a delayed telecast. But please do it now.