Philippines mull allowing cameras in courtrooms

Philippines mull allowing cameras in courtrooms

Call it news coverage in real time.

A bill titled "Sunshine in the Courtroom Act" has been filed in the House of Representatives proposing to allow live media coverage of high-profile court proceedings nationwide.

Two lawmakers from Mindanao-Rep. Rufus Rodriguez from Cagayan de Oro City and his brother Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of Abante Mindanao-said it was high time the justice system allowed full coverage of cases of national importance.

"While it may be true that there are disadvantages to having live media coverage, it is also true that the benefits definitely outweigh them," Rufus Rodriguez said.

Under the Constitution, an accused enjoys 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 in the explanatory note.

Right to a public trial

"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.

The lawmakers said live coverage would help ensure that "parties in the proceeding are answerable to the public in general and minimise the use of underhanded tricks or tactics that would prejudice any of the parties."

"Also, by allowing 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 the case is appealed," the Rodriguezes said.

Under the proposed law, justices and judges from the Court of Appeals down to the Metropolitan Trial Court and Metropolitan Circuit Trial Court may, at their discretion, permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting or televising to the public of any court proceeding over which they preside.

Face, voice may be disguised

But the justice or judge shall not permit the same, "if that justice or judge determines that the action would constitute a violation of the due process rights of any party."

The court shall order the face and voice of a party or witness disguised or otherwise obscured if it threatens the safety of the individual, the security of the court, the integrity of future or ongoing law enforcement operations, or the interest of justice, the bill states.

"The parties to a case or any witness has the right to request that his face, image and voice be obscured," it adds.

Furthermore, "the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting or televising to the public of any part of the conversations between attorneys and their clients, between cocounsels of a client, between adverse counsels, or between counsel and the presiding judge or justice are strictly prohibited if 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."


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