POSTSCRIPT / January 14, 2010 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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We can allow live TV coverage of Ampatuan

PUBLIC TRIAL: Should live TV coverage continue to be disallowed in the murder trial of Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his cohorts who allegedly herded and executed in barbaric fashion 57 persons, most of them women and members of the press, in Maguindanao last Nov. 23?

An incensed public and the media, whose job is to report matters of public concern, insist on an open public trial. But Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes who is hearing the case thinks it is best to keep out TV cameras in the meantime.

Both sides in the debate on whether or not to allow live TV coverage have cogent reasons for their positions.

We know the value of ferreting out the truth in full view of the public. But having seen also how sensational cases could deteriorate into circus-like spectacles and compromise the fair unraveling of the truth, we concede that there is also need to regulate live TV coverage.

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TWO-CAMERA POOL: I propose a compromise between a total zero and a full TV coverage of the Ampatuan trial.

Try this: The TV networks can pool their coverage, then share the costs and the output. That way we can have more orderly reporting. While there might be jostling and near-pandemonium outside the court when an Ampatuan arrives, the formal air inside is preserved.

The pool coverage, set up in cooperation with the clerk of court, can rotate the assignment of the pool among the participating networks. Stations that do not share in the expenses will be denied access to the broadcast output.

To minimize disturbing the proceedings, the networks and the court can agree on a two-camera operation. One camera will be fixed and unmanned, continuously capturing a general view of the entire court scene. A second camera, also fixed, will be pre-positioned to capture a bust shot of whoever is on the witness stand. Both cameras will be allowed to zoom in/out, but not to pan.

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NOOSE TIGHTENS: Mayor Ampatuan, the principal accused, should feel the noose tightening with the testimony yesterday of a local political leader that he was there when Ampatuan ordered the execution of the victims and personally shot some of them as they knelt and begged for their lives.

But it is possible that Ampatuan, having been conditioned as a man of influence to being able to do as he pleased, is not the least bothered, except for one element — the lady-judge hearing his case seems impervious to pressure.

For security reasons, the hearings are being held on the second floor of the PNCO social hall in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

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EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: Rasul Sangki, vice mayor of Ampatuan town, said he witnessed the massacre after Ampatuan summoned him to a checkpoint where policemen stopped the caravan of the victims and ordered them at gunpoint to lie face-down on the road.

After they were divested of money, cell phones and TV cameras, Sangki said, the victims were herded back onto their vehicles and taken to a hilltop clearing. He testified that Ampatuan reported to someone on his radio: “Father, they are here.” The man on the other end replied, “You know what to do.

When the shooting started, the victims pleaded for their lives. The women were screaming. A journalist pleaded with Ampatuan to spare him, Sangki said, but the mayor shot him and two women with an M-16 rifle.

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FUND-RAISING?: There is this seemingly laudable P500-million infrastructure buildup in Eastern Samar, where natives have for long endured the sorry state of their roads. The money is tucked in the Public Works and Highways budget for 12 roads running over 20 kilometers in the Wright-Taft-Borongan-Guiuan section of the highway.

Broken up into two packages, the first part covers P50 million for a 2.5-kilometer road in Sulat-Del Remedio; P20 million for one kilometer in Barangay San Isidro-Barangay Sto. Nino; P60 million for three kilometers in Barangay Binaloa-Barangay San Pablo; and P40 million apiece for two kilometers in Barangay Mantang-Barangay San Isidro and another two kilometers in Barangay Sto. Nini-Nabuangan bridge.

The second part includes P20 million for one kilometer in Nabuangan bridge-Sulat; P50 million for 2.5 kilometers in Bulalacao bridge-Barangay Naubay; P20 million for one kilometer in Manglos bridge-Barangay San Miguel; P60 million for three kilometers in Barangay Naubay-Barangay Piliw, P40 million for two kilometers in Barangay Piliw-Barangay Bacayawan; and P50 million each for 2.5-kilomter roads in Piliw-Barangay Bacayawan and the Barangay Cancelides-Manglos bridge.

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CHOP-CHOP: Those familiar with the province’s topography know that this infrastructure should cover just one road project — instead of being chopped up into 12 subcontracts — because all the sections actually cover just one stretch of the national road from Wright to Guiuan.

Because these are relatively small projects, they are to be implemented by the DPWH district office of Eastern Samar instead of by the department’s regional or national office.

Sources privy to the project said that the 12 sub-projects or subcontracts covered just one P500-million road project in the proposed DPWH budget plan submitted to the Congress.

But the DPWH planning division ended up — following the alleged arm-twisting of a legislator — breaking up the P500-million project into a dozen components even if these covered adjoining or interconnected sections of one road.

Why would a legislator do that when it is definitely cost-effective and a lot easier to implement and ensure the quality of a project if done by a single, reputable construction company instead of by 12 different companies?

You know the answer to that.

The data accessed are all about the vehicle. The only personal information available to the reader is the name of the registered owner, nothing more about him.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 14, 2010)

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