Dentures not enough to prove death of 58th Maguindanao massacre victim — court

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Dentures not enough to prove death of 58th Maguindanao massacre victim â court
Members of the media take images from footage showing Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes arriving at the court for the Maguindanao massacre hearing, inside the capital command headquarters Manila on December 19, 2019. A Manila court is to hand down its verdict on December 19 on the alleged masterminds of the Philippines' worst political massacre, in a case that highlighted the nation's culture of impunity.
AFP / Francis Malasig / Pool

MANILA, Philippines — A Quezon City court did not officially count the 58th victim of the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre in its ruling released Thursday.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 found 43 people, including Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., guilty beyond reasonable doubt of 57 counts of murder.

The count for the murder of journalist Ronaldo Momay, however, was dismissed as his body was never found.

The ruling noted that while it was established that Momay was part of the convoy of journalists with the Mangudadatus on the way to Shariff Aguak, he could no longer be found after 10 a.m. of Nov. 23, 2009.

"Whether Momay died or was missing after said date could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced," the ruling read.

His body was not found and there was no record of his death certificate.

The prosecution only relied on dentures, which supposedly belonged to Momay. The prosecution would later on fail to establish that it belonged to the 58th victim.

According to Solis-Reyes, the testimony of Momay's partner Marivic Bilbao that she would know the dentures belonged to her partner because she cleaned it everyday for six years since 2003 was an "implausible narrative."

"Who would ever clean everyday the denture of a loved one or live-in partner when the latter is not physically incapable of cleaning it himself/herself?  Is it a normal human behavior?" the court said.

The court added that Bilbao might have made this statement to convince the court that the dentures belonged to her partner.

Patricia Abellar, the missionary who supposedly made Momay's dentures, initially claimed it belonged to the 58th victim after identifying a stainless wire being closed at its end that he placed as a mark.

Abellar later on admitted that he placed the same closed ring on other dentures that he made for other patients as his signature.

The court also pointed out the fact that the dentures were found at the crime scene eight days after the massacre does not prove that Momay died at the hands of the accused.

"Simply put, there is no sufficiently relevant proof connecting the object evidence – the denture – with the person of Momay. The mere say-so of the prosecution witnesses that the victim wore the subject denture  will  not  amply  establish  its  identity," the ruling read.

Momay's daughter Reynafe lamented the court decision as it did not include her father.

"I need justice for my dad. Justice is incomplete when the number is not complete," Reynafe told reporters. — with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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