Re: Live TV and Radio Coverage of the Hearing of President Corazon C. Aquino's Libel Case
En Banc Resolution

October 22, 1991


Gentlemen :

Quoted hereunder, for your information is a resolution of the Court En Banc dated October 22, 1991

"Re: Live TV and Radio Coverage of the Hearing of President Corazon C. Aquino's Libel Case.

February 11, 1991 was no ordinary day for the Regional Trial Court of Manila, particularly Branch 35 thereof. Calendared for hearing that day was Criminal Case No. 88-61915, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Luis Beltran," and scheduled to testify for the prosecution was no less than Her Excellency, President Corazon C. Aquino.

Upon prior permission sought and obtained by Presiding Judge Ramon Makasiar, the hearing was held at the session hall of the Manila City Council to accommodate the large audience. The proceedings were telecast live by several television stations, Judge Makasiar having granted on February 7, 1991 the request of Ms. Ida F. Vargas of the Presidential Broadcast Staff to televise the proceedings in said case.

The day after the trial, Sectoral Representative Arturo A. Borjal wrote Chief Justice Marcelo B. Fernan lamenting the live coverage by several television stations of the court proceedings. In his letter, Borjal stated that:

". . . in the United States and other democratic countries, live TV and radio coverage is strictly prohibited under their Rules of Court. For such practice tends to undermine the integrity of and decorum in judicial proceedings." HacADE

Thus, Borjal requested:

"for a reaction to this letter so that, if deemed necessary, I could initiate the remedial legislation."

On February 14, 1991, the Supreme Court En Banc required Judge Makasiar to comment on the letter of Congressman Borjal. Complying therewith, Judge Makasiar stated at the outset that "he had never asked, invited or requested any media man whether print, broadcast, or telecast, to cover the Court's proceedings." When a representative from Malaca ang sought permission to televise the proceedings, he granted the request on the condition "that only the usual video footages would be taken of the proceedings for news purposes." It turned out that the entire proceedings was telecast live to the public.

Nonetheless, Judge Makasiar remarked that he "was not aware of any law, rule of court, or Supreme Court decision, guideline or declared policy, vis- -vis, the live TV and radio coverage of court trials. However, sections 4, 7 and 14 (2) of the Bill of Rights (Article III) of the

He further observed that "the justice system in the Philippines cannot be compared with that of the United States which adopts the jury system. Members of the jury are laymen, some of whom with low education, and therefore easily influenced by emotion, sentiments, comments of other people, and other human frailties. In the Philippines, justice is administered by judges who are learned in the law of evidence, and are constitutionally mandated to state clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which their pronouncements and judgment are based."

To stress his point, Judge Makasiar cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case, "Richmond Newspaper, Inc. et al. vs. Virginia, et al." which, among others, stated that "a trial courtroom is a public place where the people and the representatives of media, generally, have a right to be present, and where their presence has been historically thought to enhance the integrity and the quality of what takes place."

"The response to the letter of Congressman Borjal should not be to strictly prohibit live TV and radio coverage of judicial proceedings but to prescribe rules and guidelines for electronic media coverage of court trials," thus submitted Judge Makasiar. He further suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to draft the necessary rules and guidelines on this matter for submission and consideration of the Supreme Court En Banc.

The propriety of granting or denying permission to the media to broadcast, record, or photograph court proceedings involves weighing the constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, the right of the public to information and the right to public trial, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the due process rights of the defendant and the inherent and constitutional power of the courts to control their proceedings in order to permit the fair and impartial administration of justice. Collaterally, it also raises issues on the nature of media, particularly television and its role in society, and of the impact of new technologies on law. aDECHI

The records of the Constitutional Commission are bereft of discussion regarding the subject of cameras in the courtroom. Similarly, Philippine courts have not had the opportunity to rule on the question squarely.

While we take notice of the September 1990 report of the United States Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Cameras in the Courtroom, still the current rule obtaining in the Federal Courts of the United States prohibits the presence of television cameras in criminal trials. Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure forbids the taking of photographs during the progress of judicial proceedings or radio broadcasting of such proceedings from the courtroom. A trial of any kind or in any court is a matter of serious importance to all concerned and should not be treated as a means of entertainment. To so treat it deprives the court of the dignity which pertains to it and departs from the orderly and serious quest for truth for which our judicial proceedings are formulated.

Courts do not discriminate against radio and television media by forbidding the broadcasting or televising of a trial while permitting the newspaper reporter access to the courtroom, since a television or news reporter has the same privilege, as the news reporter is not permitted to bring his typewriter or printing press into the courtroom.

In Estes vs. Texas, the United States Supreme Court held that television coverage of judicial proceedings involves an inherent denial of the due process rights of a criminal defendant. Voting 5-4, the Court through Mr. Justice Clark, identified four (4) areas of potential prejudice which might arise from the impact of the cameras on the jury, witnesses, the trial judge and the defendant. The decision in part pertinently stated:

"Experience likewise has established the prejudicial effect of telecasting on witnesses. Witnesses might be frightened, play to the camera, or become nervous. They are subject to extraordinary out-of-court influences which might affect their testimony. Also, telecasting not only increases the trial judge's responsibility to avoid actual prejudice to the defendant, it may as well affect his own performance. Judges are human beings also and are subject to the same psychological reactions as laymen. For the defendant, telecasting is a form of mental harassment and subjects him to excessive public exposure and distracts him from the effective presentation of his defense.

"The television camera is a powerful weapon which intentionally or inadvertently can destroy an accused and his case in the eyes of the public."

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.

Considering the prejudice it poses to the defendant's right to due process as well as to the fair and orderly administration of justice, and considering further that the freedom of the press and the right of the people to information may be served and satisfied by less distracting, degrading and prejudicial means, live radio and television coverage of court proceedings shall not be allowed. Video footages of court hearings for news purposes shall be restricted and limited to shots of the courtroom, the judicial officers, the parties and their counsel taken prior to the commencement of official proceedings. No video shots or photographs shall be permitted during the trial proper.

ACCORDINGLY, in order to protect the parties' right to due process, to prevent the distraction of the participants in the proceedings and in the last analysis, to avoid miscarriage of justice, the Court Resolved to PROHIBIT live radio and television coverage of court proceedings. Video footages of court hearings for news purposes shall be limited and restricted as above indicated." Melencio-Herrera, J., is on leave.

Very truly yours,

Clerk of Court
Supreme Court of the Philippines


Assistant Clerk of Court
Supreme Cour of the Philippines


1. page 1, Comment.

2. page 2, Ibid.

3. page 3, Ibid.

4. page 5, Ibid.

5. 448 U.S. 555, July 2, 1980.

6. pp. 6-7, Ibid.

7. Section 4, Article III,

8. Section 7, Art. III, Ibid.

9. Section 14 (2), Article III, Ibid.

10. Section 14 (1), Article III, Ibid.

11. Section 5, par. 5, Article VIII, Ibid.

12. The United States Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Cameras recommended that:

a the existing ban on cameras in the courtroom be stricken from the Code of Conduct for United States Judges (Canon 3A 7) and henceforth policy on the subject be included in the Guides to Judiciary Policies and Procedures; and

b a policy statement be adopted expanding the permissible use of cameras and other electronic means to include ceremonial proceedings, for perpetuation of the record, for security purposes, and for other purposes of judicial administration.

13. 75 Am Jur 2d p. 156.

14. 381 U.S. 532.

15. Oxnard Publishing Co. vs. Superior Court of Ventura County (Cal App) 68 Cal Rptr 83, hear gr by Sup Ct, app dismd.

16. Hilliard vs. Arizona (CA9 Ariz) 362 F2d 908.

17. Seymour vs. United States (CA5 Tex) 373 F2d 629.