Friday July 20, 2018

Supreme Court sees need for PIO in local courts

SUPREME Court (SC) Assistant Court Administrator Theodore Te said on Friday, October 6, the higher court recognizes the need to put up a Public Information Office (PIO) in local courts.

Speaking at the “Uncovering the Courts: Media Training on Monitoring the Judiciary” at Grand Regal Hotel in Bacolod City Friday, Te said there are practical considerations before one can create an office.

Te, who is also the SC PIO chief, said a budget is needed to support it; otherwise, it can’t be sustained.

“You need specific qualifications for that,” he said.

Te pointed out that lawmakers will scrutinize the budget proposal because “once they give it to us, they can’t take it away.”

He explained that under the Constitution, the budget for the high court can’t be reduced if there’s an additional item on the budget.

“Ang item na ‘yan, dala namin forever (that item, we’ll have it forever,” he added.

Te said that not all judicial stations would be filled with a PIO since single sala courts don’t need it.

He said he talked to the executive judges about handling the media as they are the ones who serve as public information officers.

“What we’re doing right now is to empower the judge because we can’t afford yet to put a PIO for all the courts. We move to streamline communications strategy along the courts,” he said.

Te said that if there are celebrated cases, multi sala courts have to get someone who is not afraid to face the media and can explain what the court did.

Also, judges were told there are certain guidelines in media coverage, he said.

“No live coverage, but coverage on promulgation is allowed. But there are guidelines. For example, only one signal camera will be allowed. The camera will only be fixed on the judge, no panning shots, no reaction shots, no drama, no production because all the media need is information. We have to preserve the proceeding,” Te explained.

He said he is hoping that “eventually, we will get there” as the SC would also want to push through with it.

“Practical problems are our problems,” he added.

Covering the courts

More than 20 media practitioners from the Visayas attended the forum initiated by Hustisya Natin, a consortium of non-government organizations aimed at empowering civil society including the media to monitor the courts, in partnership with the Negros Press Club.

Among the topics discussed were "The Paper Trail: Right to Information and Access to Official Records and Documents" by Te; "A Walk Through the Philippine Criminal Justice System" by Alternative Law Groups national coordinator Marlon Manuel; and "Ethics and Judges: New Code of Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary" by former SC Court Administrator Zenaida Elepaño.

Bacolod Regional Trial Court Branch 52 Judge Raymond Joseph Javier also shed light on media coverage in the courts.