You are on page 1of 29

[G.R. Nos. 140900 & 140911.

February 17, 2004]

PEOPLE vs. LICAYAN

EN BANC

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated FEB 17 2004.

G.R. Nos. 140900 & 140911 (People of the Philippines vs. Roderick Licayan @ Rudy, Roberto Lara @ Tungkoy/
Unyok, et al.)

This treats of the Urgent Motion to Re-Open the Case with Leave of Court (Motion to Re-Open) dated January
15, 2004 filed by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) on behalf of death convicts Roberto Lara (Lara) and
Roderick Licayan (Licayan).

The antecedent facts are as follows:

In a Decision dated August 15, 2001 (363 SCRA 234), the Court found Lara and Licayan guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, and
affirmed the imposition of the death penalty by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina City, Branch 272.
The Court in its Resolution dated October 9, 2001 denied accused-appellants' Motion for
Reconsideration. The Decision became final and executory on November 9, 2001.

On November 18, 2003, the RTC issued a Warrant of Execution ordering the execution of Lara and Licayan
on January 30, 2004 at 3:00 p.m.

On January 15, 2004, the PAO filed the instant Motion to Re-Open praying that, in view of the recent arrest
of Rogelio delos Reyes (delos Reyes) and Pedro Mabansag (Mabansag), Lara and Licayan's co-accused, the
Court issue a resolution ordering: (1) the deferment of the scheduled executions of Lara and Licayan; and (2)
the re-opening and remand of the cases of Lara and Licayan to the court a quo for further trial and reception
of defense evidence.

In compliance with the Court's Resolution dated January 20, 2004, the PAO on January 22, 2004submitted
among other evidence in support of its Motion to Re-Open:

1. Sinumpaang Salaysay dated January 21, 2004 of accused delos Reyes declaring that Lara did not have
anything to do with the kidnapping, that the latter was not at the place where the victims were brought after
the kidnapping, and that Licayan just happened to pass by said place;

2. Sinumpaang Salaysay dated January 21, 2004 of accused Mabansag stating that Lara was not involved in
the crime because the latter was then working as a laborer in construction sites in Cavite and Antipolo, that
Lara was not at the place where the victims were brought after the kidnapping, but that Licayan was at the
said place.

On January 23, 2004, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Comment recommending that the
Motion to Re-Open be granted.

On January 26, 2004, the Court heard the parties on oral argument on the sole issue of whether the affidavits
presented to support the Motion to Re-Open constitute newly-discovered evidence that will warrant a new
trial.

Pending the resolution of this incident, the Court, by a vote of 7-6, issued a Resolution on January 26,
2004 ordering the temporary suspension of the execution of Lara and Licayan on January 30, 2004 for a period
of thirty (30) calendar days from January 27, 2004 or until February 26, 2004.
The remedy sought by the movants is one not expressly sanctioned by the Rules of Court. They seek to
"reopen and remand" the present case, so that the "newly-discovered evidence" may be received by the trial
court. Effectively, they are alternatively seeking a new trial or the reopening of the case. However, Section
24, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court only allows the reopening of a case before the finality of the judgment of
conviction. Similarly, Section 1, Rule 121 of the Rules of Court requires that a motion for new trial be filed
before a judgment of conviction becomes final. In this case, the Court's Decision had already become final
and executory on November 9, 2001.

Nonetheless, the Court, on previous occasions, has alluded to its power to suspend its own rules or to except
a particular case from its operations whenever the purposes of justice require it. [Abrajano vs. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 120787, 343 SCRA 68 (2000), citing De Guzman vs. Sandiganbayan, 256 SCRA 171 (1996).]
Indeed, the basic ground for the grant of a new trial is that there has been a miscarriage of justice and that
the grant of a new trial will be in the interest, of justice. [Ibid., citing 66 C.J.S. New Trial 14.]

Section 2 (b), Rule 121 of the Rules of Court provides that courts shall grant a new trial when new and material
evidence has been discovered which the accused could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and
produced at the trial and winch if introduced and admitted would probably change the judgment. Technically,
the affidavits of delos Reyes and Mabansag are not newly-discovered in that the affiants are the movants' co-
accused who were already identified as such during the trial. Nonetheless, we note that the evidence contained
in the affidavits could not have emerged during the pendency of the case, owing to the flight of the affiants.
The Court has been made aware of this newly emergent evidence immediately after their discovery and the
movants cannot be faulted for not having presented these affidavits or any testimonial evidence from delos
Reyes or Mabansag. Both affidavits tend to establish that Lara had no involvement in the kidnapping while
that of delos Reyes tends to absolve Licayan with a statement that the latter just happened to pass by the
place where the victims were detained. It appears that if introduced and admitted, the affidavits might lead
to a change in the outcome of the case, sparing the movants from the severest and most permanent of
penalties.

Significantly, the OSG, representing the People of the Philippines, poses no objection to and, indeed, supports
the granting of the Motion to Re-Open. That the People's Tribune himself seeks the reopening of the case must
be given due regard and cannot be dismissed lightly. The State is no less interested than the individual accused
of a crime in his acquittal if he is innocent. [Ibid., citing United States vs. Raymundo, 14 Phil. 416 (1909).]

In light of the above, the Court, by a vote of 8-6, pro hac vice finds it imperative in the interest of substantial
justice to suspend the operation of the Rules of Court and accordingly to remand the case to the trial court
for further reception of evidence.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolves to GRANT pro hac vice the Urgent Motion to Re-Open
the Case with Leave of Court. Accordingly, the execution of the Decision of this Court dated August 15, 2001 is
suspended. The records of the case are hereby REMANDED to the lower court for further reception of evidence
pursuant to Section 2(b), Rule 121 of the Rules of Court, together with the trial of accused Rogelio delos Reyes
and Pedro Mabansag. In accordance with Section 6(b) and (c), Rule 121 of the Rules of Court, insofar as the
accused Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan is concerned, the evidence already taken shall stand and the
additional evidence as the trial court may, in the interest of justice, allow to be introduced shall be taken and
considered with the evidence already in the record. Towards tins end, the Court directs Lion. Reuben P. dela
Cruz, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Marikina City, Branch 272, to hear the case of the accused
Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan, and thereafter report to this Court with deliberate dispatch.

Let copies of this Resolution be personally served on the Office of the President and the Director of the Bureau
of Corrections.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) LUZVIMINDA D. PUNO


Clerk of Court
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

REPUBLIC OF THE G. R. No. 177790


PHILIPPINES,
Petitioner,
Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J.,


- versus - Chairperson,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
CARLOS R. VEGA, MARCOS R. SERENO, JJ.
VEGA, ROGELIO R. VEGA,
LUBIN R. VEGA, HEIRS OF
GLORIA R. VEGA, Promulgated:
NAMELY: FRACISCO L. YAP,
MA. WINONA Y. RODRIGUEZ, January 17, 2011
MA. WENDELYN V. YAP and
FRANCISCO V. YAP, JR.,
Respondents,

ROMEA G. BUHAY-OCAMPO,
FRANCISCO G. BUHAY, ARCELI
G. BUHAY-RODRIGUEZ,
ORLANDO G. BUHAY, SOLEDAD
G. BUHAY-VASQUEZ, LOIDA G.
BUHAY-SENADOSA, FLORENDO
G. BUHAY, OSCAR G. BUHAY,
ERLYN BUHAY-GINORGA,
EVELYN BUHAY-GRANETA, and
EMILIE BUHAY-DALLAS,
Respondents-Intervenors.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION
SERENO, J.:
This is a Rule 45 Petition filed by the Republic of the Philippines (petitioner
Republic), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), questioning the
Decision of the Court of Appeals,[1] which affirmed a lower courts grant of an
application for original registration of title covering a parcel of land located in Los
Baos, Laguna.

The facts of the case as culled from the records of the trial court and the appellate
court are straightforward and without much contention from the parties.

On 26 May 1995, respondents Carlos R. Vega, Marcos R. Vega, Rogelio R. Vega,


Lubin R. Vega and Heirs of Gloria R. Vega namely, Francisco L. Yap, Ma. Winona
Y. Rodriguez, Ma. Wendelyn V. Yap and Francisco V. Yap, Jr. (respondents Vegas)
filed an application for registration of title. The application covered a parcel of land,
identified as Lot No. 6191, Cadastre 450 of Los Baos, Laguna, with a total area of
six thousand nine hundred two (6,902) square meters (the subject land). The case
was docketed as Land Registration Case No. 103-95-C and raffled to the Regional
Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna, Branch 92.

Respondents Vegas alleged that they inherited the subject land from their mother,
Maria Revilleza Vda. de Vega, who in turn inherited it from her father, Lorenzo
Revilleza. Their mothers siblings (two brothers and a sister) died intestate, all
without leaving any offspring.

On 21 June 1995, petitioner Republic filed an opposition to respondents Vegas


application for registration on the ground, inter alia, that the subject land or portions
thereof were lands of the public domain and, as such, not subject to private
appropriation.
During the trial court hearing on the application for registration, respondents
Vegas presented several exhibits in compliance with the jurisdictional requirements,
as well as witnesses to prove respondents Vegas ownership, occupation and
possession of the land subject of the registration. Significant was the testimony of
Mr. Rodolfo Gonzales, a Special Investigator of the Community Environment and
Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Los Baos, Laguna, under the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). He attested to having conducted an
inspection of the subject land[2] and identified the corresponding Report dated 13
January 1997, which he had submitted to the Regional Executive Director, Region
IV. The report stated that the area subject of the investigation was entirely within the
alienable and disposable zone, and that there was no public land application filed for
the same land by the applicant or by any other person.[3]

During the trial, respondents-intervenors Romea G. Buhay-Ocampo, Francisco G.


Buhay, Arceli G. Buhay-Rodriguez, Orlando G. Buhay, Soledad G. Buhay-Vasquez,
Loida G. Buhay-Senadosa, Florendo G. Buhay, Oscar G. Buhay, Erlyn Buhay-
Ginorga, Evelyn Buhay-Grantea and Emilie Buhay-Dallas (respondents-intervenors
Buhays) entered their appearance and moved to intervene in respondents Vegas
application for registration.[4] Respondents-intervenors Buhays claimed a portion of
the subject land consisting of eight hundred twenty-six (826) square meters,
purportedly sold by respondents Vegas mother (Maria Revilleza Vda. de Vega) to
the formers predecessors-in-interest - the sisters Gabriela Gilvero and Isabel Gilverio
- by virtue of a Bilihan ng Isang Bahagi ng Lupang Katihan dated 14 January
1951.[5] They likewise formally offered in evidence Subdivision Plan Csd-04-
024336-D, which indicated the portion of the subject land, which they claimed was
sold to their predecessors-in-interest.[6]

In a Decision dated 18 November 2003, the trial court granted respondents Vegas
application and directed the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue the
corresponding decree of registration in the name of respondents Vegas and
respondents-intervenors Buhays predecessors, in proportion to their claims over the
subject land.

Petitioner Republic appealed the Decision of the trial court, arguing that respondents
Vegas failed to prove that the subject land was alienable and disposable, since the
testimony of Mr. Gonzales did not contain the date when the land was declared as
such. Unpersuaded by petitioner Republics arguments, the Court of Appeals
affirmed in toto the earlier Decision of the trial court. Aggrieved by the ruling,
petitioner filed the instant Rule 45 Petition with this Court.

Respondents Vegas, who are joined by respondents-intervenors Buhays


(collectively, respondents), raise procedural issues concerning the filing of the
instant Petition, which the Court shall resolve first. Briefly, respondents found, in
the instant Petition, procedural deficiencies that ought to warrant its outright
dismissal. These deficiencies are as follows: (a) petitioner Republic failed to include
the pertinent portions of the record that would support its arguments under Rule 45,
Section 4 (d) of the Rules of Court, specifically the Appellees Brief of respondents
Vegas in the appellate proceedings; and (b) it raised questions of fact, which are
beyond the purview of a Rule 45 Petition.[7]

The Court is not persuaded by respondents arguments concerning the


purported defects of the Petition.

First, petitioner Republics failure to attach a copy of respondents Vegas


Appellees Brief to the instant Petition is not a fatal mistake, which merits the
immediate dismissal of a Rule 45 Petition. The requirement that a petition for review
on certiorari should be accompanied by such material portions of the record as would
support the petition is left to the discretion of the party filing the petition. [8] Except
for the duplicate original or certified true copy of the judgment sought to be appealed
from,[9] there are no other records from the court a quo that must perforce be attached
before the Court can take cognizance of a Rule 45 petition.

Respondents cannot fault petitioner Republic for excluding pleadings,


documents or records in the lower court, which to their mind would assist this Court
in deciding whether the Decision appealed from is sound. Petitioner Republic is left
to its own estimation of the case in deciding which records would support its Petition
and should thus be attached thereto. In any event, respondents are not prevented from
attaching to their pleadings pertinent portions of the records that they deem
necessary for the Courts evaluation of the case, as was done by respondents Vegas
in this case when they attached their Appellees Brief to their Comment. In the end,
it is the Court, in finally resolving the merits of the suit that will ultimately decide
whether the material portions of the records attached are sufficient to support the
Petition.

Second, the Petition raises a question of law, and not a question of fact.
Petitioner Republic simply takes issue against the conclusions made by the trial and
the appellate courts regarding the nature and character of the subject parcel of land,
based on the evidence presented. When petitioner asks for a review of the decisions
made by a lower court based on the evidence presented, without delving into their
probative value but simply on their sufficiency to support the legal conclusions
made, then a question of law is raised.

In New Rural Bank of Guimba (N.E.) Inc. v. Fermina S. Abad and Rafael
Susan,[10] the Court reiterated the distinction between a question of law and a
question of fact in this wise:

We reiterate the distinction between a question of law and a


question of fact. A question of law exists when the doubt or controversy
concerns the correct application of law or jurisprudence to a certain set of
facts; or when the issue does not call for an examination of the
probative value of the evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of
the facts being admitted. A question of fact exists when a doubt or
difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of facts or when the query
invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the
credibility of the witnesses, the existence and relevancy of specific
surrounding circumstances, as well as their relation to each other and
to the whole, and the probability of the situation. (Emphasis supplied)

Petitioner Republic is not calling for an examination of the probative value or


truthfulness of the evidence presented, specifically the testimony of Mr. Gonzales.
It, however, questions whether the evidence on record is sufficient to support the
lower courts conclusion that the subject land is alienable and disposable. Otherwise
stated, considering the evidence presented by respondents Vegas in the proceedings
below, were the trial and the appellate courts justified under the law and
jurisprudence in their findings on the nature and character of the subject land?
Undoubtedly, this is a pure question of law, which calls for a resolution of what is
the correct and applicable law to a given set of facts.

Going now to the substantial merits, petitioner Republic places before the
Court the question of whether, based on the evidence on record, respondents Vegas
have sufficiently established that the subject land is alienable and disposable. Was it
erroneous for the Court of Appeals to have affirmed the trial courts grant of
registration applied for by respondents Vegas over the subject land? We find no
reversible error on the part of either the trial court or the Court of Appeals.
Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree, provides for the instances when a person may file for an application for
registration of title over a parcel of land:

Section 14. Who May Apply. The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to
land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest


have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under
a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. x x x.

Thus, pursuant to the afore-quoted provision of law, applicants for registration


of title must prove the following: (1) that the subject land forms part of the
disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; and (2) that they have been
in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land
under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.[11] Section 14 (1)
of the law requires that the property sought to be registered is already alienable and
disposable at the time the application for registration is filed.[12]

Raising no issue with respect to respondents Vegas open, continuous,


exclusive and notorious possession of the subject land in the present Petition, the
Court will limit its focus on the first requisite: specifically, whether it has sufficiently
been demonstrated that the subject land is alienable and disposable.

Unless a land is reclassified and declared alienable and disposable, occupation


of the same in the concept of an owner - no matter how long -cannot ripen into
ownership and result in a title; public lands not shown to have been classified as
alienable and disposable lands remain part of the inalienable domain and cannot
confer ownership or possessory rights.[13]

Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed; they call


for proof.[14] To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is
alienable, an applicant must conclusively establish the existence of a positive act of
the government, such as any of the following: a presidential proclamation or an
executive order; other administrative actions; investigation reports of the Bureau of
Lands investigator; or a legislative act or statute.[15] The applicant may also secure a
certification from the government that the lands applied for are alienable and
disposable.[16]

Previously, a certification from the DENR that a lot was alienable and
disposable was sufficient to establish the true nature and character of the property
and enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory
evidence.[17]

However, in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,[18] the Supreme Court


overturned the grant by the lower courts of an original application for registration
over a parcel of land in Batangas and ruled that a CENRO certification is not enough
to certify that a land is alienable and disposable:

Further, it is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify


that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land
registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land
classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable and
disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls
within the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO
or CENRO. In addition, the applicant for land registration must
present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the
official records. These facts must be established to prove that the land
is alienable and disposable. Respondent failed to do so because the
certifications presented by respondent do not, by themselves, prove that
the land is alienable and disposable. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, as it now stands, aside from a CENRO certification, an application for


original registration of title over a parcel of land must be accompanied by a copy of
the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true
copy by the legal custodian of the official records in order to establish that the land
indeed is alienable and disposable.[19]

To comply with the first requisite for an application for original registration
of title under the Property Registration Decree, respondents Vegas should have
submitted a CENRO certification and a certified true copy of the original
classification by the DENR Secretary that the land is alienable and disposable,
together with their application. However, as pointed out by the Court of Appeals,
respondents Vegas failed to submit a CENRO certification -- much less an original
classification by the DENR Secretary -- to prove that the land is classified as
alienable and disposable land of the public domain.[20] If the stringent rule imposed
in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., is to be followed, the absence of these twin
certifications justifies a denial of an application for registration. Significantly,
however, the Courts pronouncement in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., was
issued after the decisions of the trial court[21] and the appellate court[22] in this case.

Recently, however, in Republic v. Serrano,[23] the Court affirmed the findings


of the trial and the appellate courts that the parcel of land subject of registration was
alienable and disposable. The Court held that a DENR Regional Technical Directors
certification, which is annotated on the subdivision plan submitted in evidence,
constitutes substantial compliance with the legal requirement:
While Cayetano failed to submit any certification which would
formally attest to the alienable and disposable character of the land applied
for, the Certification by DENR Regional Technical Director Celso V.
Loriega, Jr., as annotated on the subdivision plan submitted in
evidence by Paulita, constitutes substantial compliance with the legal
requirement. It clearly indicates that Lot 249 had been verified as
belonging to the alienable and disposable area as early as July 18,
1925.

The DENR certification enjoys the presumption of regularity


absent any evidence to the contrary. It bears noting that no opposition
was filed or registered by the Land Registration Authority or the
DENR to contest respondents' applications on the ground that their
respective shares of the lot are inalienable. There being no substantive
rights which stand to be prejudiced, the benefit of the Certification may
thus be equitably extended in favor of respondents. (Emphasis supplied)

Indeed, the best proofs in registration proceedings that a land is alienable and
disposable are a certification from the CENRO or Provincial Environment and
Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and a certified true copy of the DENRs original
classification of the land. The Court, however, has nonetheless recognized and
affirmed applications for land registration on other substantial and convincing
evidence duly presented without any opposition from the LRA or the DENR on the
ground of substantial compliance.

Applying these precedents, the Court finds that despite the absence of a
certification by the CENRO and a certified true copy of the original classification by
the DENR Secretary, there has been substantial compliance with the requirement to
show that the subject land is indeed alienable and disposable based on the evidence
on record.

First, respondents Vegas were able to present Mr. Gonzales of the CENRO
who testified that the subject land is alienable and disposable, and who identified his
written report on his inspection of the subject land.

In the Report,[24] Mr. Gonzales attested under oath that (1) the area is entirely
within the alienable and disposable zone as classified under Project No. 15, L.C.
Map No. 582, certified on 31 December 1925;[25] (2) the land has never been
forfeited in favor of the government for non-payment of taxes; (3) the land is not
within a previously patented/decreed/titled property;[26] (4) there are no public land
application/s filed by the applicant for the same land;[27] and (5) the land is
residential/commercial.[28] That Mr. Gonzales appeared and testified before an open
court only added to the reliability of the Report, which classified the subject land as
alienable and disposable public land. The Court affirms the Court of Appeals
conclusion that Mr. Gonzales testimony and written report under oath constituted
substantial evidence to support their claim as to the nature of the subject land.

Second, Subdivision Plan Csd-04-02433-6, formally offered as evidence by


respondents-intervenors Buhays,[29] expressly indicates that the land is alienable and
disposable. Similar to Republic v. Serrano, Mr. Samson G. de Leon, the officer-in-
charge of the Office of the Assistant Regional Executive Director for Operations of
the DENR, approved the said subdivision plan, which was annotated with the
following proviso: [T]his survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per
Project No. 15, L.C. Map No. 582, certified on Dec. 31, 1925. Notably, Mr. De
Leons annotation pertaining to the identification of the land as alienable and
disposable coincides with the investigation report of Mr. Gonzales.

Finally, upon being informed of respondents Vegas application for original


registration, the LRA never raised the issue that the land subject of registration was
not alienable and disposable. In the Supplementary Report submitted during the trial
court proceedings,[30] the LRA did not interpose any objection to the application on
the basis of the nature of the land. It simply noted that the subject subdivision plan
(Psu-51460) had also been applied for in Case No. 1469, GLRO Record No. 32505,
but that there was no decree of registration issued therefor. Thus, the LRA
recommended that should the instant case be given due course, the application in
Case No. 1469, GLRO Record No. 32505 with respect to plan Psu-51460 be
dismissed. In addition, not only did the government fail to cross-examine Mr.
Gonzales, it likewise chose not to present any countervailing evidence to support its
opposition. In contrast to the other cases brought before this Court,[31] no opposition
was raised by any interested government body, aside from the pro forma opposition
filed by the OSG.

The onus in proving that the land is alienable and disposable still remains with
the applicant in an original registration proceeding; and the government, in opposing
the purported nature of the land, need not adduce evidence to prove otherwise.[32] In
this case though, there was no effective opposition, except the pro forma opposition
of the OSG, to contradict the applicants claim as to the character of the public land
as alienable and disposable. The absence of any effective opposition from the
government, when coupled with respondents other pieces of evidence on record
persuades this Court to rule in favor of respondents.

In the instant Petition, petitioner Republic also assails the failure of Mr.
Gonzales to testify as to when the land was declared as alienable and disposable.
Indeed, his testimony in open court is bereft of any detail as to when the land was
classified as alienable and disposable public land, as well as the date when he
conducted the investigation. However, these matters could have been dealt with
extensively during cross-examination, which petitioner Republic waived because of
its repeated absences and failure to present counter evidence.[33] In any event, the
Report, as well as the Subdivision Plan, readily reveals that the subject land was
certified as alienable and disposable as early as 31 December 1925 and was even
classified as residential and commercial in nature.

Thus, the Court finds that the evidence presented by respondents Vegas,
coupled with the absence of any countervailing evidence by petitioner Republic,
substantially establishes that the land applied for is alienable and disposable and is
the subject of original registration proceedings under the Property Registration
Decree. There was no reversible error on the part of either the trial court or the
appellate court in granting the registration.

Respondents-intervenors Buhays title to that portion of the subject land is


likewise affirmed, considering that the joint claim of respondents-intervenors
Buhays over the land draws its life from the same title of respondents Vegas, who in
turn failed to effectively oppose the claimed sale of that portion of the land to the
formers predecessors-in-interest.

It must be emphasized that the present ruling on substantial compliance


applies pro hac vice. It does not in any way detract from our rulings in Republic v.
T.A.N. Properties, Inc., and similar cases which impose a strict requirement to prove
that the public land is alienable and disposable, especially in this case when the
Decisions of the lower court and the Court of Appeals were rendered prior to these
rulings.[34] To establish that the land subject of the application is alienable and
disposable public land, the general rule remains: all applications for original
registration under the Property Registration Decree must include both (1) a CENRO
or PENRO certification and (2) a certified true copy of the original classification
made by the DENR Secretary.

As an exception, however, the courts - in their sound discretion and based


solely on the evidence presented on record - may approve the application, pro hac
vice, on the ground of substantial compliance showing that there has been a positive
act of government to show the nature and character of the land and an absence of
effective opposition from the government. This exception shall only apply to
applications for registration currently pending before the trial court prior to this
Decision and shall be inapplicable to all future applications.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is DENIED. The


Court of Appeals Decision dated 30 April 2007 and the trial courts Decision dated
18 November 2003 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 117083 October 27, 1995

LAZARO V. KAVINTA, petitioner,


vs.
HON. PRUDENCIO ALTRE CASTILLO, JR., Presiding Judge, Branch 220, Regional Trial Court,
Quezon City, and ANTONIO C. FRANCO, respondents.

RESOLUTION

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

The issue in this special civil action for certiorari is whether public respondent Judge Prudencio Altre
Castillo, Jr., has committed grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion to dismiss the complaint
in Civil Case No. Q-94-20532 on the ground that the certification of non-forum shopping required
under Administrative Circular No. 04-94 1was, nevertheless, subsequently submitted after the filing of
the motion to dismiss.

The antecedent disclosed by the parties in their pleadings are uncomplicated.

On 11 May 1994, private respondent represented by his attorney-in-fact, Angeles F. Arroyo, filed
with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City a complaint against petitioner Lazaro V. Kavinta and
others 2 a complaint for Recovery of Possession and Issuance of Writ of Demolition. The case was
docketed as Civil Case No. Q-94-20532 and was raffled to Branch 220 of said court, which is presided
over by public respondent Judge Castillo.

On 20 June 1994, the petitioner and his codefendants moved to dismiss the complaint 3 on the
ground that "it does not comply with Administrative Circular No. 04-94 of the Supreme Court which took
effect on April 1, 1994."

On 4 July 1994 private respondent filed, through counsel, an opposition to the motion to dismiss, 4 to
which he attached as Annex "A" thereof the certification required in Administrative Circular No. 04-94. 5

On 20 July 1994, Judge Castillo issued an order 6 denying the motion to dismiss in view of the
submission of the aforesaid certification, and directing the defendants to file their answer or responsive
pleading "within the remaining reglementary period in accordance with the Rules of Court."

On 3 August 1994, Judge Castillo issued an order 7 declaring petitioner's Reply to the opposition to the
motion to dismiss moot and academic in view of the order of 20 July 1994.

On 24 August 1994, petitioner filed a motion to reconsider his Reply as a motion for the
reconsideration of the order of 20 July 1994. 8
On 2 September 1994, Judge Castillo issued an order 9 denying the Reply, which was treated as a
motion for reconsideration, and clarifying that

The language of the July 20, 1994 order is very clear and unambiguous. The fifteen
(15) days reglementary period to plead is reckoned from the date defendants,
through counsel, received the notice denying their motion to dismiss.

Administrative Circular No. 04-94 of this Court issued by the Chief Justice on 8 February 1994 and
which took effect on 1 April 1994 pertinently provides:

Revised Circular No. 28-91, dated February 8, 1994 applies to and governs the filing
of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals and is intended to
prevent the multiple filing of petitions or complaints involving the same issues in other
tribunals or agencies as a form of forum shopping.

Complementary thereto and for the same purpose, the following requirements, in
addition to those in pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court and existing circulars,
shall be strictly complied with in the filing of complaints petitions, applications or other
initiatory pleadings in all courts and agencies other than the Supreme Court and the
Court of Appeals, and shall be subject to the sanctions provided hereunder:

1. The plaintiff, petitioner, applicant or principal party seeking relief in the complaint,
petition, application or other initiatory pleading shall certify under oath in such original
pleading, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed
therewith, to the truth of the following facts and undertakings: (a) he has not
theretofore commenced any other action or proceeding involving the same issues in
the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency; (b) to the
best of his knowledge, no such action or proceeding is pending in the Supreme
Court, the Court of Appeals or any other tribunal or agency; (c) if there is any such
action or proceeding which is either pending or may have been terminated, he must
state the status thereof; and (d) if he should thereafter learn that a similar action or
proceeding has been filed or is pending before the Supreme Court, the Court of
Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency, he undertakes to report that fact within five
(5) days therefrom to the court or agency wherein the original pleading and sworn
certification contemplated herein have been filed.

The complaint and other initiatory pleadings referred to and subject of this Circular
are the original civil complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, third (fourth, etc.) party
complaint, or complaint-in-intervention, petition, or application wherein a party
asserts his claim for relief.

2. Any violation of this Circular shall be a cause for the dismissal of the complaint,
petition, application or other initiatory pleading, upon motion and after hearing.
However, any clearly wilful and deliberate forum shopping by any party and his
counsel through the filing of multiple complaints or other initiatory pleadings to obtain
favorable action shall be a ground for summary dismissal thereof and shall constitute
direct contempt of court. Furthermore, the submission of a false certification or non-
compliance with the undertakings therein, as provided in Paragraph 1 hereof, shall
constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to disciplinary proceedings
against the counsel and the filing of a criminal action against the guilty party.
In Loyola vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 10 we categorically ruled that the Circular is mandatory as
indicated by the clear language of its paragraph 2. Nevertheless, substantial compliance thereof is
sufficient. Thus:

Substantial compliance with the Circular is sufficient. This Circular expanded or


broadened the applicability of Circular No. 28-91 of this Court. In Gabionza vs. Court
of Appeals [G.R. No. 112547, Resolution of 18 July 1994. 234 SCRA 192] this Court
held that substantial compliance therewith is sufficient for:

It is scarcely necessary to add that Circular No. 28-91 must be so


interpreted and applied as to achieve the purposes projected by the
Supreme Court when it promulgated that Circular. Circular No. 28-91
was designed to serve as an instrument to promote and facilitate an
orderly administration of justice and should not be interpreted with
such absolute literalness as to subvert its
own ultimate and legitimate objective or the goal of all rules of
procedure which is to achieve substantial justice as expeditiously
as possible.

xxx xxx xxx

The fact that the Circular requires that it be strictly complied with merely underscores
its mandatory nature in that it cannot be dispensed with or its requirements
altogether disregarded, but it does not thereby interdict substantial compliance with
its provisions under justifiable circumstances.

In his opposition to the motion to dismiss, private respondent neither offered any explanation why he
failed to comply with the Circular nor invoked any justifiable circumstance which would relieve him of
the adverse effect of non-compliance. If this Court is to be unbending in its demand for at least a
substantial compliance of the said Circular, the challenged order must have to be set aside.
However, in his motion to dismiss the instant petition, 11private respondent pointed out that the filing of
the required certification was done with dispatch by his counsel upon "realization of the existence of said
circular." He thereby admits his unawareness or ignorance of the Circular at the time he filed his
complaint. We are not unmindful of the fact that Administrative Circular No. 04-94 took effect only on 1
April 1994 and the complaint in Civil Case No.
Q-94-20532 was filed on 11 May 1994. The proximity then of the filing of the complaint to the date of the
effectivity of the Circular may be pleaded as a justifiable circumstance, and the belated filing of the
certification required thereunder may be deemed a substantial compliance therewith. We thus rule pro
hac vice, but not without a whit of reluctance, that this special circumstance in this case could sustain the
action of the respondent Judge. This should not be taken, however, as a precedent. Elsewise stated, the
mere submission of a certification under Administrative Circular No. 04-94 after the filing of a motion to
dismiss on the ground of non-compliance thereof does not ipso facto operate as a substantial
compliance; otherwise the Circular would lose its value or efficacy.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED. Petitioner is DIRECTED to file his responsive
pleading in Civil Case No. Q-94-20532 within a period of ten (10) days from notice of this resolution.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Bellosillo and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.


EN BANC

RE: PETITION FOR RADIO A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC


AND TELEVISION
COVERAGE OF THE
MULTIPLE MURDER CASES
AGAINST MAGUINDANAO
GOVERNOR ZALDY
AMPATUAN, ET AL.,
x ----------------------------------- x
RE: PETITION FOR THE A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC
CONSTITUTION OF THE
PRESENT COURT HANDLING
THE TRIAL OF THE Present:
MASSACRE OF 57 PERSONS,
INCLUDING 32 CORONA,* C.J.,
JOURNALISTS, IN CARPIO,
AMPATUAN, CARPIO MORALES,
MAGUINDANAO INTO A VELASCO, JR.,
SPECIAL COURT HANDLING LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
THIS CASE ALONE FOR THE BRION,
PURPOSE OF ACHIEVING PERALTA,
GENUINE SPEEDY TRIAL and BERSAMIN,
FOR THE SETTING UP OF DEL CASTILLO,
VIDEOCAM AND MONITOR ABAD,
JUST OUTSIDE THE COURT VILLARAMA, JR.,
FOR JOURNALISTS TO PEREZ,
COVER AND FOR THE MENDOZA, and
PEOPLE TO WITNESS THE SERENO, JJ.
TRIAL OF THE DECADE TO
MAKE IT TRULY PUBLIC Promulgated:
AND IMPARTIAL AS
COMMANDED BY THE June 14, 2011
CONSTITUTION,
x ---------------------------------x
A.M. No. 10-11-7-SC
RE: LETTER OF PRESIDENT
BENIGNO S. AQUINO III FOR
THE LIVE MEDIA
COVERAGE OF THE
MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE
TRIAL.
x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

On November 23, 2009, 57 people including 32 journalists and media practitioners


were killed while on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao. Touted as the
worst election-related violence and the most brutal killing of journalists in recent
history, the tragic incident which came to be known as the Maguindanao Massacre
spawned charges for 57 counts of murder and an additional charge of rebellion
against 197 accused, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. Q-09-162148-72, Q-09-
162216-31, Q-10-162652-66, and Q-10-163766, commonly entitled People v. Datu
Andal Ampatuan, Jr., et al. Following the transfer of venue and the reraffling of the
cases, the cases are being tried by Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Branch
221 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City inside Camp Bagong Diwa
inTaguig City.

Almost a year later or on November 19, 2010, the National Union of Journalists of
the Philippines (NUJP), ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Inc.,
relatives of the victims,[1] individual journalists[2] from various media entities, and
members of the academe[3] filed a petition before this Court praying that live
television and radio coverage of the trial in these criminal cases be allowed,
recording devices (e.g., still cameras, tape recorders) be permitted inside the
courtroom to assist the working journalists, and reasonable guidelines be formulated
to govern the broadcast coverage and the use of devices.[4] The Court docketed the
petition as A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC.

In a related move, the National Press Club of the Philippines[5] (NPC) and Alyansa
ng Filipinong Mamamahayag[6] (AFIMA) filed on November 22, 2010 a petition
praying that the Court constitute Branch 221 of RTC-Quezon City as a special court
to focus only on the Maguindanao Massacre trial to relieve it of all other pending
cases and assigned duties, and allow the installation inside the courtroom of a
sufficient number of video cameras that shall beam the audio and video signals to
the television monitors outside the court.[7] The Court docketed the petition
as A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC.

President Benigno S. Aquino III, by letter of November 22, 2010 [8] addressed to
Chief Justice Renato Corona, came out in support of those who have petitioned [this
Court] to permit television and radio broadcast of the trial." The President expressed
earnest hope that [this Court] will, within the many considerations that enter into
such a historic deliberation,
attend to this petition with the dispatch, dispassion and humaneness, such a petition
merits.[9] The Court docketed the matter as A.M. No. 10-11-7-SC.

By separate Resolutions of November 23, 2010,[10] the Court consolidated A.M.


No. 10-11-7-SC with A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC. The Court shall treat in a separate
Resolution A.M. No. 10-11-6-SC.

Meanwhile, various groups[11] also sent to the Chief Justice their respective
resolutions and statements bearing on these matters.

The principal accused in the cases, Andal Ampatuan, Jr. (Ampatuan), filed a
Consolidated Comment of December 6, 2010 in A.M. No. 10-11-5-SC and A.M. No.
10-11-7-SC. The President, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and
NUJP, et al. filed their respective Reply of January 18, 2011 and January 20,
2011.Ampatuan also filed a Rejoinder of March 9, 2011.

On Broadcasting the Trial of the Maguindanao Massacre Cases

Petitioners seek the lifting of the absolute ban on live television and radio coverage
of court proceedings. They principally urge the Court to revisit the 1991 ruling inRe:
Live TV and Radio Coverage of the Hearing of President Corazon C. Aquinos Libel
Case[12] and the 2001 ruling in Re: Request Radio-TV Coverage of the Trial in the
Sandiganbayan of the Plunder Cases Against the Former President Joseph E.
Estrada[13] which rulings, they contend, violate the doctrine that proposed
restrictions on constitutional rights are to be narrowly construed and outright
prohibition cannot stand when regulation is a viable alternative.

Petitioners state that the trial of the Maguindanao Massacre cases has attracted
intense media coverage due to the gruesomeness of the crime, prominence of the
accused, and the number of media personnel killed. They inform that reporters are
being frisked and searched for cameras, recorders, and cellular devices upon entry,
and that under strict orders of the trial court against live broadcast coverage, the
number of media practitioners allowed inside the courtroom has been limited to one
reporter for each media institution.

The record shows that NUJP Vice-Chairperson Jose Jaime Espina, by January 12,
2010 letter[14] to Judge Solis-Reyes, requested a dialogue to discuss concerns over
media coverage of the proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre cases. Judge Solis-
Reyes replied, however, that matters concerning media coverage should be brought
to the Courts attention through appropriate motion.[15] Hence, the present petitions
which assert the exercise of the freedom of the press, right to information, right to a
fair and public trial, right to assembly and to petition the government for redress of
grievances, right of free access to courts, and freedom of association,subject to
regulations to be issued by the Court.

The Court partially GRANTS pro hac vice petitioners prayer for a live
broadcast of the trial court proceedings, subject to the guidelines which shall be
enumerated shortly.

Putts Law[16] states that technology is dominated by two types of people: those who
understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not
understand. Indeed, members of this Court cannot strip their judicial robe and don
the experts gown, so to speak, in a pretense to foresee and fathom all serious
prejudices or risks from the use of technology inside the courtroom.

A decade after Estrada and a score after Aquino, the Court is once again faced with
the same task of striking that delicate balance between seemingly competing yet
certainly complementary rights.
The indication of serious risks posed by live media coverage to the accuseds right
to due process, left unexplained and unexplored in the era obtaining in Aquino and
Estrada, has left a blow to the exercise of press freedom and the right to public
information.

The rationale for an outright total prohibition was shrouded, as it is now, inside
the comfortable cocoon of a feared speculation which no scientific study in the
Philippine setting confirms, and which fear, if any, may be dealt with by
safeguards and safety nets under existing rules and exacting regulations.

In this day and age, it is about time to craft a win-win situation that
shall not compromise rights in the criminal administration of justice, sacrifice press
freedom and allied rights, and interfere with the integrity, dignity and solemnity of
judicial proceedings. Compliance with regulations, not curtailment of a right,
provides a workable solution to the concerns raised in these administrative matters,
while, at the same time, maintaining the same underlying principles upheld in the
two previous cases.

The basic principle upheld in Aquino is firm [a] trial of any kind or in any court is
a matter of serious importance to all concerned and should not be treated as a means
of entertainment, and to so treat it deprives the court of the dignity which pertains to
it and departs from the orderly and serious quest for truth for which our judicial
proceedings are formulated. The observation that [m]assive intrusion of
representatives of the news media into the trial itself can so alter and destroy the
constitutionally necessary atmosphere and decorum stands.

The Court concluded in Aquino:

Considering the prejudice it poses to the defendant's right to due process


as well as to the fair and orderly administration of justice, and considering
further that the freedom of the press and the right of the people to
information may be served and satisfied by less distracting, degrading and
prejudicial means, live radio and television coverage of court proceedings
shall not be allowed. Video footages of court hearings for news purposes
shall be restricted and limited to shots of the courtroom, the judicial
officers, the parties and their counsel taken prior to the commencement of
official proceedings. No video shots or photographs shall be permitted
during the trial proper.

Accordingly, in order to protect the parties' right to due process, to prevent


the distraction of the participants in the proceedings and in the last analysis,
to avoid miscarriage of justice, the Court resolved to PROHlBIT live radio
and television coverage of court proceedings. Video footage of court
hearings for news purposes shall be limited and restricted as above
indicated.[17]

The Court had another unique opportunity in Estrada to revisit the question of live
radio and television coverage of court proceedings in a criminal case. It held that
[t]he propriety of granting or denying the instant petition involve[s] the weighing
out of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and the right to public
information, on the one hand, and the fundamental rights of the accused, on the other
hand, along with the constitutional power of a court to control its proceedings in
ensuring a fair and impartial trial. The Court disposed:

The Court is not all that unmindful of recent technological and scientific
advances but to chance forthwith the life or liberty of any person in a hasty
bid to use and apply them, even before ample safety nets are provided and
the concerns heretofore expressed are aptly addressed, is a price too high
to pay.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.[18]

In resolving the motion for reconsideration, the Court in Estrada, by Resolution of


September 13, 2001, provided a glimmer of hope when it ordered the audio-visual
recording of the trial for documentary purposes, under the following conditions:

x x x (a) the trial shall be recorded in its entirety, excepting such portions
thereof as the Sandiganbayan may determine should not be held public
under Rule 119, 21 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure; (b) cameras shall
be installed inconspicuously inside the courtroom and the movement of TV
crews shall be regulated consistent with the dignity and solemnity of the
proceedings; (c) the audio-visual recordings shall be made for
documentary purposes only and shall be made without comment except
such annotations of scenes depicted therein as may be necessary to explain
them; (d) the live broadcast of the recordings before the Sandiganbayan
shall have rendered its decision in all the cases against the former President
shall be prohibited under pain of contempt of court and other sanctions in
case of violations of the prohibition; (e) to ensure that the conditions are
observed, the audio-visual recording of the proceedings shall be made
under the supervision and control of the Sandiganbayan or its Division
concerned and shall be made pursuant to rules promulgated by it; and (f)
simultaneously with the release of the audio-visual recordings for public
broadcast, the original thereof shall be deposited in the National Museum
and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and
exhibition in accordance with law.[19]

Petitioners note that the 1965 case of Estes v.


[20]
Texas which Aquino and Estrada heavily cited, was borne out of the dynamics of
a jury system, where the considerations for the possible infringement of the
impartiality of a jury, whose members are not necessarily schooled in the law, are
different from that of a judge who is versed with the rules of evidence. To
petitioners, Estes also does not represent the most contemporary position of
the United States in the wake of latest jurisprudence[21] and statistical figures
revealing that as of 2007 all 50 states, except the District of Columbia, allow
television coverage with varying degrees of openness.

Other jurisdictions welcome the idea of media coverage. Almost all the proceedings
of United Kingdoms Supreme Court are filmed, and sometimes broadcast.[22]The
International Criminal Court broadcasts its proceedings via video streaming in the
internet.[23]

On the media coverages influence on judges, counsels and witnesses, petitioners


point out that Aquino and Estrada, like Estes, lack empirical evidence to support the
sustained conclusion. They point out errors of generalization where the conclusion
has been mostly supported by studies on American attitudes, as there has been no
authoritative study on the particular matter dealing with Filipinos.
Respecting the possible influence of media coverage on the impartiality of trial court
judges, petitioners correctly explain that prejudicial publicity insofar as it
undermines the right to a fair trial must pass the totality of circumstances test,
applied in People v. Teehankee, Jr.[24] and Estrada v. Desierto,[25] that the right of an
accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press, that pervasive publicity is
not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to a fair trial, and that there must be
allegation and proof of the impaired capacity of a judge to render a bias-free
decision. Mere fear of possible undue influence is not tantamount to actual prejudice
resulting in the deprivation of the right to a fair trial.

Moreover, an aggrieved party has ample legal remedies. He may challenge the
validity of an adverse judgment arising from a proceeding that transgressed a
constitutional right. As pointed out by petitioners, an aggrieved party may early on
move for a change of venue, for continuance until the prejudice from publicity is
abated, for disqualification of the judge, and for closure of portions of the trial when
necessary. The trial court may likewise exercise its power of contempt and issue gag
orders.

One apparent circumstance that sets the Maguindanao Massacre cases apart from the
earlier cases is the impossibility of accommodating even the parties to the cases the
private complainants/families of the victims and other witnesses inside the
courtroom. On public trial, Estrada basically discusses:

An accused has a right to a public trial but it is a right that belongs to him,
more than anyone else, where his life or liberty can be held critically in
balance. A public trial aims to ensure that he is fairly dealt with and would
not be unjustly condemned and that his rights are not compromised in
secrete conclaves of long ago. A public trial is not synonymous with
publicized trial; it only implies that the court doors must be open to those
who wish to come, sit in the available seats, conduct themselves with
decorum and observe the trial process. In the constitutional sense, a
courtroom should have enough facilities for a reasonable number of the
public to observe the proceedings, not too small as to render the openness
negligible and not too large as to distract the trial participants from their
proper functions, who shall then be totally free to report what they have
observed during the proceedings.[26] (underscoring supplied)
Even before considering what is a reasonable number of the public who may observe
the proceedings, the peculiarity of the subject criminal cases is that the proceedings
already necessarily entail the presence of hundreds of families. It cannot be gainsaid
that the families of the 57 victims and of the 197 accused have as much interest,
beyond mere curiosity, to attend or monitor the proceedings as those of the
impleaded parties or trial participants. It bears noting at this juncture that the
prosecution and the defense have listed more than 200 witnesses each.

The impossibility of holding such judicial proceedings in a courtroom that will


accommodate all the interested parties, whether private complainants or accused, is
unfortunate enough. What more if the right itself commands that a reasonable
number of the general public be allowed to witness the proceeding as it takes place
inside the courtroom. Technology tends to provide the only solution to break the
inherent limitations of the courtroom, to satisfy the imperative of a transparent, open
and public trial.

In so allowing pro hac vice the live broadcasting by radio and television of the
Maguindanao Massacre cases, the Court lays down the following guidelines toward
addressing the concerns mentioned in Aquino and Estrada:

(a) An audio-visual recording of the Maguindanao massacre cases may


be made both for documentary purposes and for transmittal to live radio
and television broadcasting.

(b) Media entities must file with the trial court a letter of application,
manifesting that they intend to broadcast the audio-visual recording of
the proceedings and that they have the necessary technological
equipment and technical plan to carry out the same, with an undertaking
that they will faithfully comply with the guidelines and regulations and
cover the entire remaining proceedings until promulgation of judgment.

No selective or partial coverage shall be allowed. No media entity


shall be allowed to broadcast the proceedings without an application
duly approved by the trial court.
(c) A single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously
inside the courtroom to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala
of the trial court. No panning and zooming shall be allowed to avoid
unduly highlighting or downplaying incidents in the proceedings. The
camera and the necessary equipment shall be operated and controlled
only by a duly designated official or employee of the Supreme
Court. The camera equipment should not produce or beam any
distracting sound or light rays. Signal lights or signs showing the
equipment is operating should not be visible. A limited number of
microphones and the least installation of wiring, if not wireless
technology, must be unobtrusively located in places indicated by the
trial court.

The Public Information Office and the Office of the Court


Administrator shall coordinate and assist the trial court on the physical
set-up of the camera and equipment.
(d) The transmittal of the audio-visual recording from inside the
courtroom to the media entities shall be conducted in such a way that
the least physical disturbance shall be ensured in keeping with the
dignity and solemnity of the proceedings and the exclusivity of the
access to the media entities.

The hardware for establishing an interconnection or link with the


camera equipment monitoring the proceedings shall be for the account
of the media entities, which should employ technology that can (i) avoid
the cumbersome snaking cables inside the courtroom, (ii) minimize the
unnecessary ingress or egress of technicians, and (iii) preclude undue
commotion in case of technical glitches.

If the premises outside the courtroom lack space for the set-up of
the media entities facilities, the media entities shall access the audio-
visual recording either via wireless technology accessible even from
outside the court premises or from one common web broadcasting
platform from which streaming can be accessed or derived to feed the
images and sounds.

At all times, exclusive access by the media entities to the real-


time audio-visual recording should be protected or encrypted.
(e) The broadcasting of the proceedings for a particular day must be
continuous and in its entirety, excepting such portions thereof where
Sec. 21 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court[27] applies, and where the trial
court excludes, upon motion, prospective witnesses from the courtroom,
in instances where,inter alia, there are unresolved identification issues
or there are issues which involve the security of the witnesses and the
integrity of their testimony (e.g., the dovetailing of corroborative
testimonies is material, minority of the witness).

The trial court may, with the consent of the parties, order only the
pixelization of the image of the witness or mute the audio output, or
both.

(f) To provide a faithful and complete broadcast of the proceedings, no


commercial break or any other gap shall be allowed until the days
proceedings are adjourned, except during the period of recess called by
the trial court and during portions of the proceedings wherein the public
is ordered excluded.

(g) To avoid overriding or superimposing the audio output from the on-
going proceedings, the proceedings shall be broadcast without any
voice-overs, except brief annotations of scenes depicted therein as may
be necessary to explain them at the start or at the end of the scene. Any
commentary shall observe the sub judice rule and be subject to the
contempt power of the court;

(h) No repeat airing of the audio-visual recording shall be allowed until


after the finality of judgment, except brief footages and still images
derived from or cartographic sketches of scenes based on the recording,
only for news purposes, which shall likewise observe the sub judice rule
and be subject to the contempt power of the court;

(i) The original audio-recording shall be deposited in


the National Museum and the Records Management and Archives
Office for preservation and exhibition in accordance with law.

(j) The audio-visual recording of the proceedings shall be made under


the supervision and control of the trial court which may issue
supplementary directives, as the exigency requires, including the
suspension or revocation of the grant of application by the media
entities.

(k) The Court shall create a special committee which shall forthwith
study, design and recommend appropriate arrangements, implementing
regulations, and administrative matters referred to it by the Court
concerning the live broadcast of the proceedings pro hac vice, in
accordance with the above-outlined guidelines. The Special Committee
shall also report and recommend on the feasibility, availability and
affordability of the latest technology that would meet the herein
requirements. It may conduct consultations with resource persons and
experts in the field of information and communication technology.

(l) All other present directives in the conduct of the proceedings of the
trial court (i.e., prohibition on recording devices such as still cameras,
tape recorders; and allowable number of media practitioners inside the
courtroom) shall be observed in addition to these guidelines.

Indeed, the Court cannot gloss over what advances technology has to offer in
distilling the abstract discussion of key constitutional precepts into the workable
context.Technology per se has always been neutral. It is the use and regulation
thereof that need fine-tuning. Law and technology can work to the advantage and
furtherance of the various rights herein involved, within the contours of defined
guidelines.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing disquisition, the Court PARTIALLY


GRANTS PRO HAC VICE the request for live broadcast by television and radio of
the trial court proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre cases, subject to the
guidelines herein outlined.

SO ORDERED.
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice