Supreme Court OKs live coverage of Ampatuan massacre promulgation

Robie de Guzman   •   December 10, 2019   •   1734

(FILE) Filipino Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Junior (R), prime suspect in the massacre of 57 civilians in a southern province, is shoved with photos of the mass murder victims as he arrives at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines on 18 December 2009. EPA-EPE/FRANCIS MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday approved the request for live coverage and broadcast of the promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre ruling set on Thursday, December 19at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Supreme Court Spokesperson, Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka said the en banc voted to allow the live streaming of the promulgation but did not elaborate if the voting was unanimous.

“After the en banc session of the SC this morning, they granted the request for the live broadcast and coverage of the promulgation of the decision of the case ‘People vs Ampatuan’ which is pending before Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,” Hosaka told reporters.

The request for open and live coverage of the case promulgation was filed earlier by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and several media networks.

The Maguindanao massacre, which occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

The gruesome incident left 58 people dead, including 32 media personnel, some members of the Mangudadatu family and several civilians.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

Of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges, 101 were put on trial and could face sentencing soon.

Hosaka said a set of guidelines for the media coverage will be released by the SC Public Information Office.

This will include the number of reporters who will be allowed inside and outside of the courtroom as well as the rules on the use of mobile phones, cameras, and other recording devices.

A room will also be prepared where members of the media may monitor court proceedings during the case promulgation.

“However, due to space limitations and security concerns that the court has imposed. These are in broad strokes the actual resolution and guidelines will be out possibly at the end of the week,” Hosaka said.

SC moves bar exams to January, February 2022

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (September 28) announced that it will reschedule the bar examinations.

Bar Chairman Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in a bulletin said that the SC will be resetting the bar examinations to January 16, 23, 30, and February 6, 2022. The previous schedule was set for November 2021.

The SC said that the rescheduling was due to the country’s pandemic situation and advice of various experts.

Activities, including selection of the applicants and downloading the secure exam delivery program, will continue however, application period will not reopen.

“Treat this as an opportunity. Keep your momentum. Remember that you study not only to pass the Bar, but also so that you will best serve others,” Leonen said. AAC

NCR courts ordered physically closed until September 30

Marje Pelayo   •   September 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered all courts in the National Capital Region (NCR) closed due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the region.

In a circular issued and signed by Court Administrator Midas Marquez, the temporary closure of all NCR courts is also in consideration of the pilot-testing of granular lockdowns after placing all cities in the region, except Manila, under Alert Level 4.

“All courts in NCR, except the Supreme Court, shall remain physically closed to court users until 30 September 2021 notwithstanding the NCR will be under general community quarantine beginning 8 September 2021,” the circular read.

However, the courts in the NCR will continue operating online, the circular said.

This means hearings on pending cases and all other matters may be addressed through videoconferencing so as not to delay the trial of cases and court processes.

Meanwhile, Marquez said the time of filing and service of pleadings and motions during the period of physical closure remains suspended and shall only resume after seven days counted from the first day of reopening of the relevant court.

For inquiries and other matters, all NCR courts may be reached through their respective hotlines and email addresses posted on SC’s official website.

Supreme Court to forgo traditional announcement of top 10 Bar passers

Robie de Guzman   •   August 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will depart from its tradition of announcing the names of top 10 passers in the 2020-2021 Bar examinations, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Friday.

Leonen, who chairs the 2020-2021 Bar exams committee, said that instead of announcing the top-notchers, an examinee who obtains an 85 percent or higher weighted score for the upcoming examination shall be recognized for exemplary performance.

In the latest Bar bulletin, the Supreme Court said that the modification of the grading system was one of the reforms proposed by Leonen “to enable a more reasonable approach to appraising and reporting on Bar examination performance.”

It has been a tradition of the high court to name the top notchers simultaneous with the release of successful Bar passers, but with the pandemic, Leonen said they have taken into consideration the circumstances of the two batches that will be taking the exams this November.

“On one hand, those who intended to take the Bar Examinations in 2020 either had more time to review, or endured more time for waiting. The 2021 graduates, on the other hand, had to endure the longer ordeal of preparing to graduate during the pandemic, causing delays in the graduation dates. They have been put in a constrained environment, with only a brief window of time to prepare,” Leonen said.

“Testing two batches of examinees that prepared under different circumstances – not to mention the vast number of combined examinees, placing an enormous demand on the examiners – compels the adoption of unique mechanisms that aim to balance these inequities,” he added.

Leonen also noted that the modifications introduced aim to be “more inclusive” by not limiting recognition to an exclusive circle of top-notchers, adding that “limiting the recognition to a circle of 10 risks being beholden to statistical minutiae.”

He also emphasized that the Bar exams aim to determine whether an individual has the knowledge to be a lawyer.

“The Bar examinations measure individual knowledge. It is no race or competition. Neither will it predict who among the examinees will become the best qualified within their batch, the better lawyer, the more relevant practitioner, or the more compassionate individual,” he said.

“In short, good lawyering requires skill and a view to making choices that match the nobility of the profession and its desire for social justice. This is not entirely measured by the Bar examinations,” he added.

The SC postponed the 2020 Bar examinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upcoming exams will be held in several testing centers across the country in November.

“It is hoped that by shifting the focus away from how to select individuals who excel and onto a school’s collective performance, this will encourage deep-seated and wide-ranging improvements in legal education. Law schools would inspire and aspire for excellence that would uplift their entire studentry, rather than select Bar bets only,” Leonen said

Under the modified grading system, an examinee who obtains a total weighted score of 85 percent or higher for the 2020-2021 Bar Examinations shall be recognized for exemplary performance.

“The names of examinees who earned recognition for exemplary performance shall be made publicly available simultaneously with the list of passers, through the same media. Apart from this, no fanfare shall be devoted in releasing information on examinees who rendered exemplary performance,” Leonen said.

“The names in this list shall be arranged alphabetically, and shall also appear in the list of passers. This list shall replace the traditional Top 10,” he added.

The SC said a report on law schools’ performance will also be released. Law schools having examinees who were recognized for exemplary performance shall also be identified in a separate report.

Statistics on the performance of those who did not pass or did not finish past Bar exams will not be made public, but will be given to the law schools themselves, it added.

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