SC asked to allow media coverage of Pemberton trial
Siblings of slain Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude on Monday asked the Supreme Court to order Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 to allow media coverage of the trial of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.
who is accused of murder for the death of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
In a 15-page petition, Marilou and Mesehilda Laude told the high court that allowing the media in the courtroom to cover the trial is mandated under the Constitutional right to free speech, of the press and to information.
They added that the case of Pemberton, who is accused of murder for the death of Laude, is not an ordinary criminal case but a case of public interest.
“The fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including the criminal proceedings in the on-going Pemberton trial,” the petition stated.
“More importantly, barring the media from the courtroom partakes of a serious limitation on the right to free speech and of the press. The so-called fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including the criminal proceedings in this case,” the petition further stated.
The siblings said the Olongapo court should take guidance from the Maguindanao massacre hearings being conducted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 where the media is allowed to cover the trial despite opposition from the accused.
During hearings on the massacre case, the press is allowed in the courtroom. Even cameramen are allowed to take video footages before the hearings start, they said.
They also stressed that allowing the media to enter the court and to attend the trial is mandated by the petitioners’ right to access to justice which is recognized both under the international law-International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which the Philippines is a signatory state-and the constitution.
“Under international rights law, petitioners and their family members have the right to know and be informed about the proceedings as an integral part of their right to have access to justice,” the petitioners said.
They also said that the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crimes and Abuse of Power provides for the victims’ right to access to justice.
They added that due to the distance between Olongapo City and Leyte province where most of the Laude family members are residing as well as financial and logistical constraints, their main medium through which they can be informed of what transpired in the trial is through the press.
The court started barring the media during Pemberton’s arraignment last December as well as subsequent proceedings of the case.
“Until now, members of the media are still barred from even entering the courtroom of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 during the on-going trial hearings of Pemberton” the petition explained.
Marilou Laude then filed a motion to allow media coverage but RTC Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde denied it for lack of merit last Dec. 23, 2014, prompting her to file a motion for reconsideration which was again junked by the court on Feb. 18 this year.
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