Family of missing journalist in Maguindanao massacre appeals acquittal

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2020 09:59 PM

Press freedom advocates stage a solidarity event for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre on the eve of the release of the verdict on Dec. 19, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The family of the journalist, who was reportedly killed along with 57 others in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre but whose body was never found, is not giving up just yet.

On Friday, the family of Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay filed a notice of appeal with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, expressing their intention to bring their case to the Court of Appeals as they seek to overturn the acquittal of all 101 accused.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes had ruled that in the absence of corpus delicti, usually the corpse of the victim, the prosecution failed to establish with moral certainty that Momay reached Sitio Masalay, where the massacre took place, and experienced the same danger that other victims of the convoy faced.

“Whether Momay died or was missing after said date could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced. He has no cadaver and neither was his death certificate presented on record,” Solis-Reyes said.

Only Momay’s dentures were recovered from the crime scene but, according to the court, the prosecution failed to show the dentures were his.

In appealing the acquittal, the family of Momay sought to overturn a decades-old rule in criminal law cases called the doctrine against double jeopardy, which bars a court from trying again an accused acquitted on the same charge.

This rule has been applied in numerous cases but, according to Momay’s family, the Supreme Court needs to review the rule, a “colonially imposed alien doctrine.”

“[T]he Supreme Court needs to revisit and reverse this doctrine because it has unconstitutional applicability in the Philippines. The doctrine – which says that an appeal from an acquittal violates double jeopardy – was an imposition of the United States of America as a colonial power on the occupied Philippine islands in 1904 in the case of Kepner v. US (195 US 100 [1904]),” they said in their notice.

The case involved an American lawyer accused of stealing his client’s funds whose acquittal in the trial court was reversed by the Philippine Supreme Court.

On appeal, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., acquitted the lawyer applying the rule against double jeopardy.

Momay’s family, through their lawyers, claimed the rule should not apply in the Philippines as it is premised on jury trial.

“The imposition of said doctrine in the Philippines and its continuing use in this country — even after the Philippines gained independence and had its own sovereign constitution — violates the constitutional provisions on equal protection and due process,” they said.

The family is also appealing the ruling on the civil aspect since Solis-Reyes did not award them any form of damages on account of the acquittal.

The family had insisted they are not after the money but the recognition that their husband and father was part of those who perished in the brutal massacre.