Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Issue No. 21                        July 8-14,  2001                    Quezon City, Philippines

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Coverage Ban A Mockery of Justice, Groups Say

Cause-oriented groups fear that justice will not be served with the recent decision of the Supreme Court to ban live press coverage of the trial of deposed President Estrada at the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court). Letting the public see the trial, they argue, undermines moves by the defense to manipulate public opinion in Estrada’s favor and also helps expose errors by the court and the prosecution. 


The recent decision of the Supreme Court to ban the live press coverage for the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) trial of deposed President Estrada has heightened the fears of cause-oriented groups that justice will not be served.

Will the high court decision affect the outcome of the plunder and other criminal charges lodged against the discredited leader? This is the question uppermost in the minds of these groups.

To them, the Supreme Court's ruling is tantamount to curtailment of press freedom and could give defense lawyers enough leeway to manipulate public opinion and even possibly maneuver the court and the prosecution.

"The live coverage will help even the odds for truth and justice by undercutting possible maneuvers of the Estrada camp and its defense lawyers and by exposing possible errors of the court and the prosecution," Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, convenor of the watchdog group Plunder Watch said.

Araullo explained that such scenario is very much possible especially under the existing justice system "that is known to be dominated by the influential and moneyed sectors of the society."

The Concerned Lawyers for Moral and Effective Leadership (Clamor), one of the complainants in the plunder case, advised the Kapisanan ng mga Brodcasters sa Pilipinas (KBP) to file a motion for reconsideration to the high tribunal ruling.

Clamor expressed optimism that with the "very close margin" in the results of the voting, the high tribunal will eventually reverse its decision.

Clamor convenor Dennis Funa noted that the Supreme Court in its ruling gave emphasis on only two points—the rights of the accused and the rights of the media or freedom of the press.

"The Supreme Court forgot the most important aspect of all, which is the right of the people to pursue with full knowledge and transparency the crimes committed against them and the entire country," Funa said.

In other words, he said, the national interest dictates that the people be fully informed of what is going on in their complaint against a leader who allegedly betrayed them.

"The fear of the Supreme Court that the passions and emotions of the people will be inflamed is highly misplaced and completely misses the cause of People Power 2," the Clamor lawyer said. "The people were inflamed because they saw on television that a mockery of justice was being committed, that they were being fooled."

Mockery of justice

The cause of the passions, he continued, was not the television coverage but rather the mockery of justice that was happening.

"If a mockery of justice can be committed with live television coverage during the impeachment trial, what more if there is no television coverage?" Funa asked.

The Equal Justice for all Movement (E-Just), an umbrella organization of civil society and lawyers groups, lamented the decision, saying that the Supreme Court "does not trust the collective intelligence of the Filipino people."

The group said that while Filipinos exercise trust in voting for the highest and lowest elective positions in the government, vote on constitutional amendments, and even send young people to war to defend the country, the irony is that the high court does not trust the people to make their own decision in watching the live media coverage of the Estrada trials.

"Is the Supreme Court saying that it was a mistake for the Senate to allow the TV coverage of the impeachment trial which allowed people to see the mockery and charade of the impeachment trial?" E-Just said in a statement.

Activists from the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya urged the high tribunal to reconsider its decision "in the name of truth and justice." The decision is a big disappointment and that it can be tantamount to granting Estrada his salvation, it said.

"The decision could work in favor of Estrada because his camp can do practically everything without the vigilant public eye, slip the course and remain fugitive from justice, " Pamalakaya says.

Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert-Corpuz said the court's decision denied certain fundamental rights like the freedom of the press and the public's right to information.

 "The public deserves to witness the full account of the trial. Why deny the rights of millions and favor a bunch of plunderers, criminals and raiders of state funds ?" Corpuz asked.

He said the live coverage of the trial is crucial to the success of justice and truth. "The rejection for live coverage is the grandmother of all political concessions the government has awarded to Estrada and his minions named in the plunder case at this point, " Corpuz said.

He expressed fears that the decision may provide rooms for the Estrada camp to maneuver and eventually offset the people's decision against the former president.

"The press fought and won a big battle for the cause of press freedom during the Estrada administration," Corpus said. "The rejection of live coverage by the Supreme Court ignites another grand battle royale for the cause of press freedom." Bulatlat.com

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