Journalists cleared in indirect contempt case filed by Ampatuan lawyer-A A +A
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
MANILA -- Members of the media who reported the disbarment case against Ampatuan lawyer Sigfrid Fortun filed last November 2010 have been cleared of indirect contempt by the Supreme Court.
They are the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), Philippine Star's Edu Punay, Inquirer.net's Tetch Torres-Tupas, ABS-CBN's Ces Drilon and Sophia Dedace, who previously worked for GMA News Online.
In a decision dated February 13, the SC Second Division said media cannot be stopped from making "fair, true, and accurate" news report of a disbarment case.
"In the absence of a legitimate public interest in a disbarment complaint, members of the media must preserve the confidentiality of disbarment proceedings during its pendency," stated the decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
The Court sided with the comments presented by the respondents that Fortun's case must be reported since he represents the Ampatuan clan in the ongoing trial in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre that counted 32 journalists as victims.
"The interest of the public is not on petitioner (Fortun) himself but primarily on his involvement and participation as defense counsel in the Maguindanao massacre case," the decision read.
But lawyer Prima Quinsayas, one of the private prosecutors handling the multiple murder case, was told to pay P20,000 as fine for discussing details of the disbarment case she, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, and three others filed against Fortun.
Quinsayas was proven guilty of violating the confidentiality rule in disbarment proceedings, as per Section 18, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, according to the decision.
She is also representing families of victims of other media killings, such as that of Marlene Esperat, who was gunned down in 2005 because of her articles regarding the fertilizer fund scam. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)