Family of still missing Maguindanao massacre victim in limbo despite verdict

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 02:21 PM

MANILA - The daughter of the 58th victim in the Maguindanao Massacre on Thursday expressed mixed feelings after the court convicted most of the principal accused in the case.

"I'm happy for them because they were able to get the justice they deserve," said Ma. Reynafe Castillo, daughter of Reynaldo Momay, one of 58 victims in the November 23, 2009 massacre.

However, a tearful Castillo still felt that the court had neglected her father.

"Selective 'yung justice. I felt like left out ang tatay ko," she said in an online interview with ABS-CBN News.

(Justice was selective. I felt like my father was left out.)

The court on Thursday sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole members of the Ampatuan clan namely Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Zaldy "Puti" Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Jr., and Datu Anwar Sajid Ampatuan and several other police officers.

It, however, dismissed the Momay family's claim for damages.

"Unfortunately in our system when you're acquitted there's such a thing as double jeopardy. We cannot appeal the criminal aspect because that would be a violation of the constitutional rights not to be subjected to double jeopardy," explained the lawyer.

It took about 3 years before Momay's name was included in the list of those killed in the carnage.

Momay, photographer for local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after 57 bodies, including those of 31 other journalists, were dug from mass graves.
 
"Gusto ko lang masama number ng tatay ko," she said.

(I just want him to be included.)

Bagares said the best that they could do at this point is to appeal the civil aspect of the case.

"It's very sad that's why I have mixed feelings about the verdict. There were guilty verdict but with respect to Bebot Momay, his family remains in limbo. There's no closure," said Romel Bagares, the family's legal counsel.

Bagares said it was as if there was no 58th victim.

"Parang walang (It was as if there was no) 58th victim. Basically he did not exist, that's the logical conclusion to make because according to the court we were not able to prove that he was on that convoy, that he was killed on the convoy and that the Ampatuans were the ones responsible for his death," he said.

Momay's body is still missing to this day, a challenge that the family had to face.

"Ang difficulty talaga sa kaso na 'yan walang body, walang katawang na-recover...it's what is called in law as corpus delicti," Bagares said.

(The difficulty in the case is there's no body, no body was recovered... it's what is called in law as corpus delicti.)

Bagares said authorities only found a set of dentures that possibly belonged to Momay and the one who made it was even presented in court.

They also tried to show to court that he was in the convoy based on testimonies. The motorcycle he borrowed was recovered and presented as well.

"What we had were pieces of circumstantial evidence aside from the set of dentures. I don't know how the court actually appreciated that fact," he said.