New York, September 17, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes a Supreme Court ruling in the Philippines granting a change of trial venue in the case against two suspects charged with ordering the March 2005 murder of investigative reporter Marlene Garcia-Esperat.
The Supreme Court handed down the ruling on August 26 and Manila-based press freedom group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility received a copy of the order this week. The change of venue request in the trial of Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay was filed in February by the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of six media groups and a CPJ partner in the Global Campaign Against Impunity.
The ruling will shift the trial from Tacurong City Regional
Trial Court to
The court denied a motion filed by the two suspects through their lawyers in March to quash the case on the grounds that the Tacurong court had previously dismissed the charges without a trial in 2005. Three gunmen were sentenced in 2006 to 30 years in prison each for their role in the crime. Former intelligence agent Rowie Barua testified during those trials that he had hired the assassins at the behest of Montañer and Sabay, leading to the new charges filed against them as the masterminds behind the crime.
“The change of trial venue to a neutral and secure setting
is a significant first step toward achieving full justice in this landmark
In July, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of another change
of venue in the murder trial of radio journalist Dennis
Cuesta, who was murdered in August 2008. The order transferred the case
There are a number of similar petitions requesting a change of trial venues for security reasons in media killings now pending in the Supreme Court.