MANILA — Overshadowed by high-profile issues is a two-page proposed statute which allows live media coverage of court proceedings in the country.
Referred to the House Committee on Justice for its consideration, HB 4236 or the so-called “Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2014” is a brainchild of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Jr.
“While it may be true that there are disadvantages to having live media coverage, it is also true that the benefits definitely outweigh them,” Rep. R. Rodriguez stressed.
The Constitution provides the accused the right to a speedy, impartial and public trial, and anyone interested in observing the proceedings may do so subject only to certain limitations, the authors said.
“The right to a public trial is given to the accused in order to prevent abuses that may be committed by the court to the prejudice of the defendant, while also entitled to the support of his friends and relatives,” they added.
Rodriguez, who is also chairman of the House Special Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), explained that the problem of accommodation in the country’s small-sized courtrooms could be addressed by allowing such live coverage to ensure that the parties in the proceeding are answerable to the public in general and minimize the use of underhanded trick or tactics that would prejudice any of the parties.
“Also, by allowing such live coverage, the public itself could get first-hand information on what is happening or how the trial is proceeding, aside from having another form of documentation on the proceedings of the trial which may help the appellate courts if ever the case is appealed,” the authors pointed out.
Under HB 4236, filed since May of 2014, provides that: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the justices and judges of the Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court and Metropolitan Circuit Court may, at the discretion of that judge, permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any court proceeding over which that justice presides; Provided that the justice or judge shall not permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any court proceeding if that justice or judge determines that the action would constitute a violation of the due process rights of any party.”
Likewise, the bill provides that: “The court shall order the face and voice of a party or witness to be disguised or otherwise obscured in such a manner as to render the party or witness unrecognizable to the public or broadcast audience of the trial proceeding it would threaten the: (I) the safety of the individual, (II) the security of the court, (III) the integrity of future or ongoing law enforcement operations, or (IV) the interest of justice.”
“The parties to a case or any witness has the right to request that his face, image and voice be obscured,” the bill states.
Furthermore, “the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any part of the conversations between attorneys and their clients, between co-counsels of a client, between adverse counsels, or between counsel and the presiding judge or justice are strictly prohibited it said conversations are privileged communication.”
If and when the measure is enacted into law, the “Supreme Court of the Philippines shall issue such orders, rules and regulations and other issuances as may be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the proposed Act.”