By Raïssa Robles
I asked Atty. Fortun to clarify what he had told me three and a half months ago, after I read today’s report that the Supreme Court decided to bar live coverage.
“…a camera that broadcasts the proceedings live on television has no place in a criminal trial because of its prejudicial effects on the rights of the accused individuals.”
Last July when I asked Atty Fortun whether he would favor live coverage, he had replied:
I am for it.
In the same interview, I had asked Fortun how long he thought the massacre trial would still take, given its pace and the fact that the defense had yet to present its own witnesses. Fortun told me:
I surmise a period – about an additional two or three years from today.
His “today” referred to July 31, 2012 – the day I had interviewed him for my newspaper South China Morning Post on the “vanishing witnesses”.
The story centered on my interview with Myrna Reblando, wife of one of the slain journalists who had flown to Hong Kong to seek a refugee status. My SCMP story can be accessed here.
In the course of the interview, I asked Atty. Fortun whether or not he favored live coverage of the massacre trial.
A, ya…I am for it.
He gave me two reasons why he favors live coverage of the trial.
First, Fortun said the public will see the ineptness of the prosecution:
You’ll discover who’s prepared. We (the defense) will be benefited tremendously by it. Guess who was blocking, opposing it (live coverage) – the prosecution. They have achieved the Peter Principle. [NOTE: This refers to a management theory formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull that “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.”]
Second, Fortun said the public can judge for itself whether witnesses for the prosecution are lying:
Things disclosed in court are not reported in media. (For instance the) demeanor (of witnesses).
I always have been – (for) labasan na ng baraha, sinong talo. I’m not saying – I’m confident (of winning). The public should know the truth, who is telling a lie on witnesses, and if you see them in court. One of these days, watch the supposed eyewitnesses.
These people who claim to know the truth and who claim to be harassed and stalked and killed. When they are there they are so perky, so madaldal. So perky. Ganoon ba takot? As if they had a shot of adrenaline before they went to court, they are so vivacious. Meron bang takot na ganoon?
Because of what he had said, I asked Atty Fortun to clarify these in the light of the court decision.
So I e-mailed him:
Dear Atty. Fortun,
Earlier you told me in an interview that you were all for live media coverage of the Maguindanao trial.
May I know why you’ve changed your mind on the matter?
Fortun e-mailed back:
What was stated in a pleading filed before your interview asking for reconsideration of the SC’s ruling was my client’s position. He is averse to it. That position is also consistent with case law which was just parroted.
I asked him further:
Just to clarify -
When I asked you what you thought of a live media coverage, you were for it – as the Ampatuan lawyer.
But one of your clients was not for it.
Would that be a correct interpretation of what you said?
I forgot to ask him something so I e-mailed him again -
Would you try convincing your client to change his mind on the matter?
Or you would just leave it at that?
I had tried that tact before the motion was filed as I knew transparency will do them more good than harm, but he demurred as public condemnation of his family had escalated over the months before the motion was filed and he saw no justification in fanning it any further by agreeing to live coverage which he felt will only fortify the “lynch mob” mentality that had already been created by lop-sided press reports.
In closing this piece, I would just like to make a final observation.
Why the media is an interested party in this trial
The massacre trial is not like any other trial we’ve had under our courts. There are over a hundred suspects. Even families of the victims are at risk and under pressure.
Aside from the families of the victims, the media is also a victim here.
The massacre may have become a morbid wish expressed by people who who have a quarrel with the media.
Last August when Jesse Robredo’s plane crashed, an architect named Neill Villanueva posted on Facebook that he wished it was President Aquino who was in that plane so that Vice-President Jejomar Binay would now be the president.
Like many others, I was appalled by Villanueva’s comments. I therefore suggested on Facebook that those who did not like what Villanueva said could show their displeasure by not buying the condos he was developing.
Soon afterward, Villanueva’s sister, Maria Cynthia Villanueva Pattalitan, posted this message on my Facebook Fan Page wall, wishing I had died in the Maguindanao massacre, too:
Manila is quite far from Maguindanao but it seems the same mindset knows no distance nor boundaries.