Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision allowing media coverage of her trial on trumped-up illegal drug charge case before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 206.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, lauded the High Court for recognizing the freedom of the press, the right of the public to be informed and her right to an impartial public trial.
“Despite Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo’s effort to prevent the media from observing the proceedings, I am grateful that the High Court has shown respect to the free press and to my right to an open and public trial,” she said.
“The SC decision can help ensure that matters of high public interest are exposed to the public and court proceedings, including the behavior or demeanor of witnesses, are put under public scrutiny,” she added.
Media covering the court hearings on the trumped-up illegal drug trade cases the present administration has lodged against De Lima were prevented from entering the court room supposedly upon Judge Domingo’s orders.
Last June 22, Judge Domingo denied the written request sent by Rappler reporter Lian Buan to have access to public case records and be allowed inside the courtroom during court hearings.
Buan wrote a letter to SC’s Clerk of Court Edgar Archieta last July 5 to appeal her request to be given access to the courtroom during the hearings because of what she called “transcendental importance” of the trial.
After the recommendation of Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, SC Justices led by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio reportedly granted the request of Rappler to allow media coverage of De Lima’s court proceedings.
The High Court is said to have authorized the clerk of court of the RTC “to select, for each hearing of the drug cases against Sen. De Lima, two to four media institutions to access the courtroom, which may be limited to one reporter from each of such chosen media institutions.”
As an elected senator of the Republic, De Lima maintained that it is necessary to allow the members of the press to cover her court proceedings to ensure that the Filipino people are informed on matters that affect their representative.
“Bakit ipinagkakait sa media ang bahagi ng propesyon nilang mabantayan at mailahad ang mga pangyayari sa mga hearing? May kailangan bang itago, pagtakpan o kinatatakutang lumabas sa publiko?,” asked De Lima.
“Dapat lang na bukas at hayag ang mga nangyayari sa korte, ang mga pahayag ng mga pekeng testigo, pati na ang argumento ng bawat partido nang patas na lumabas ang katotohanan,” she added
De Lima has recently decried the unwarranted action of authorities, including the Philippine National Police and court officials, to ban media from covering her court hearings, saying the authorities “are getting more and more unreasonable” with their restrictions.
The Senator from Bicol has filed a 13-page Motion for Inhibition last Oct. 15 seeking for the inhibition of Judge Navarro-Domingo due to her “bias, partiality and acts of prejudgment” against her.