Bill of Rights
Request of Radio-TV coverage of plunder cases of Estrada
Perez v. Estrada
A.M. No. 01-4-03-SC (June 29, 2001)
* Digest of this case is particularly longer because of the novelty of the issue. FACTS: The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) sent a letter requesting the SC to allow live media coverage of the anticipated trial of the plunder and other criminal cases filed against former President Estrada before the Sandiganbayan in order "to assure the public of full transparency in the proceedings of an unprecedented case in our history." The request was seconded by Mr. Cesar N. Sarino in his letter of 05 April 2001 to the Chief Justice and, still later, by Senator Renato Cayetano and Attorney Ricardo Romulo
HELD: Petition denied. In the case of Estes vs. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the television coverage of judicial proceedings is an inherent denial of due process to the accused. The Court in this case also identified the following as being likely prejudices: "1.The potential impact of television . . . is perhaps of the greatest significance. . . . From the moment the trial judge announces that a case will be televised it becomes a cause célèbre. The whole community, . . . becomes interested in all the morbid details surrounding it. The approaching trial immediately assumes an important status in the public press and the accused is highly publicized along with the offense with which he is charged. Every juror carries with him into the jury box these solemn facts and thus increases the chance of prejudice that is present in every criminal case. . . . "2.The quality of the testimony in criminal trials will often be impaired. The impact upon a witness of the knowledge that he is being viewed by a vast audience is simply incalculable. Some may be demoralized and frightened, some cocky and given to overstatement; memories may falter, as with anyone speaking publicly, and accuracy of statement may be severely undermined. . . .. Indeed, the mere fact that the trial is to be televised might render witnesses reluctant to appear and thereby impede the trial as well as the discovery of the truth. "3.A major aspect of the problem is the additional responsibilities the presence of television places on the trial judge. His job is to make certain that the accused receives a fair trial. This most difficult task requires his undivided attention. . . "4.Finally, we cannot ignore the impact of courtroom television on the defendant. Its presence is a form of mental — if not physical — harassment, resembling a police line-up or the third degree. The inevitable close-up of his gestures and expressions during the ordeal of his trial might well transgress his personal sensibilities, his dignity, and his ability to concentrate on the proceedings before him — sometimes the difference between life and death — dispassionately, freely and without the distraction of wide public surveillance. A defendant on trial for a specific crime is entitled to his day in court, not in a stadium, or a city or nationwide arena. The heightened public clamor resulting from radio and television coverage will inevitably result in prejudice."
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. A trial is not a free trade of ideas. Nor is a competing market of thoughts the known test of truth in a courtroom.
The Court is not all that unmindful of recent technological and scientific advances but to chance forthwith the life or liberty of any person in a hasty bid to use and apply them, even before ample safety nets are provided and the concerns heretofore expressed are aptly addressed, is a price too high...