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Re: Request Radio-Tv Coverage Of The Trial Of In The Sandiganbayan Of The Plunder Cases Against The Former

President Joseph E. Estrada.


A.M. No. 01-4-03-S.C., June 29, 2001

Facts: The travails of a deposed President continue. The Sandiganbayan reels to start hearing the criminal charges against Mr.
Joseph E. Estrada. Media seeks to cover the event via live television and live radio broadcast and endeavors this Court to allow it
that kind of access to the proceedings. Public interest, the petition further averred, should be evident bearing in mind the right of
the public to vital information affecting the nation. In effect, the petition seeks a re-examination of the 23rd October 1991 resolution
of this Court in a case for libel filed by then President Corazon C. Aquino: xxx "Representatives of the press have no special
standing to apply for a writ of mandate to compel a court to permit them to attend a trial, since within the courtroom, a reporter's
constitutional rights are no greater than those of any other member of the public. Massive intrusion of representatives of the news
media into the trial itself can so alter or destroy the constitutionally necessary judicial atmosphere and decorum that the
requirements of impartiality imposed by due process of law are denied the defendant and a defendant in a criminal proceeding
should not be forced to run a gauntlet of reporters and photographers each time he enters or leaves the courtroom. xxx

Issue: Whether the press should be allowed to air Estradas trial to the public.

Held: Admittedly, the press is a mighty catalyst in awakening public consciousness, and it has become an important instrument in
the quest for truth. Recent history exemplifies media's invigorating presence, and its contribution to society is quite impressive.
The Court, just recently, has taken judicial notice of the enormous effect of media in stirring public sentience during the
impeachment trial, a partly judicial and partly political exercise, indeed the most-watched program in the boob-tubes during those
times, that would soon culminate in EDSA II.

The propriety of granting or denying the instant petition involve the weighing out of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of the
press and the right to public information, on the one hand, and the fundamental rights of the accused, on the other hand, along
with the constitutional power of a court to control its proceedings in ensuring a fair and impartial trial. When these rights race
against one another, jurisprudence7 tells us that the right of the accused must be preferred to win.

An accused has a right to a public trial but it is a right that belongs to him, more than anyone else, where his life or liberty can be
held critically in balance. A public trial aims to ensure that he is fairly dealt with and would not be unjustly condemned and that his
rights are not compromised in secrete conclaves of long ago. A public trial is not synonymous with publicized trial; it only implies
that the court doors must be open to those who wish to come, sit in the available seats, conduct themselves with decorum and
observe the trial process. In the constitutional sense, a courtroom should have enough facilities for a reasonable number of the
public to observe the proceedings, not too small as to render the openness negligible and not too large as to distract the trial
participants from their proper functions, who shall then be totally free to report what they have observed during the proceedings.

The courts recognize the constitutionally embodied freedom of the press and the right to public information. It also approves of
media's exalted power to provide the most accurate and comprehensive means of conveying the proceedings to the public and in
acquainting the public with the judicial process in action; nevertheless, within the courthouse, the overriding consideration is still
the paramount right of the accused to due process which must never be allowed to suffer diminution in its constitutional proportions.
Unlike other government offices, courts do not express the popular will of the people in any sense which, instead, are tasked to
only adjudicate justiciable controversies on the basis of what alone is submitted before them.