Live Coverage of Ampatuan Massacre Trial Urged


MANILA — Families of victims of the Ampatuan massacre and media organizations would file today a petition before the Supreme Court to allow the live coverage of the trial.

The Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009 which involved the powerful Ampatuan clan, claimed the lives of 57 individuals, including 31 journalists. One journalist remains missing to this day. The massacre took place in barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the live coverage of the trial would benefit families of victims who could not afford to go to Manila to attend the hearings.

“It will also uphold the right of the public to a public trial and the right to information which are grounded on the Philippine Constitution,” Pastores said in a press conference Nov. 16.

Pastores added that the live coverage would allow media groups covering the trial to report more accurately. In the past hearings, members of the media were subjected to tight security measures. Electronic devices, including audio recorders and cellphones, were not allowed inside the court room.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) says live coverage on Ampatuan trial will uphold the right of the people to public trial. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea /

“Now is the best time to revisit the existing jurisprudence on live coverage of important cases,” Pastores said.
Citing previous decisions of the Supreme Court restricting live coverage, Pastores said the grounds for media restrictions on the libel case against late journalist Louie Beltran and plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada do not apply in the Ampatuan trial.

Pastores clarified that the petition still recognizes the authority of the court to control the proceedings in the trial but asserted there are many ways to allow live coverage without affecting the course of the proceedings. “There are many possible remedies to prevent the concerns raised by the court,” she said.

Media groups who signed the petition include the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, ABS-CBN, GMA-7 and University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.
President Benigno S. Aquino III recently expressed support for the live coverage of the trial. Senator Francis Pangilinan also filed Senate Resolution 186 seeking to express the opinion of the Senate that the court proceedings of the multiple murder trial should be made public through live radio and television coverage. Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, likewise, expressed her opinion favoring the live coverage of the trial while addressing the concerns of the court. (

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