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58th murder case junked

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
58th murder case junked
A soldier stands guard next to the marker for 58 people killed at the massacre site in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao in this file photo. Photojournalist Reynaldo Momay was considered the 58th victim of the massacre although his body was never found.

MANILA, Philippines — Yesterday’s promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre case saw the 58th murder case junked because the body of photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, whose dentures were found at the site of the massacre, could not be found.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 made the decision as such circumstances could not establish that the lensman was indeed a victim of the massacre.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes acquitted all accused on the 58th murder case, filed for the death of Momay, on the basis of reasonable doubt.

The reason? The prosecution failed to establish that he was indeed a victim of the massacre.

“This court concludes that the first element of murder – ‘that a person was killed’ – is absent in this case. The 58th count of murder will not prosper for it lacks corpus delicti,” read the ruling.

“It must be borne in mind that proof of corpus delicti is indispensable in prosecutions for felonies and offenses, such as the crime of murder. Corpus delicti is the body or substance of the crime. It refers to the fact that a crime has been actually committed,” it added.

Under the double jeopardy rule, the prosecution is not allowed to file appeals on dismissed criminal charges.

“Numbing” was how Ma. Reynafe Momay Castillo, Momay’s daughter, described the verdict.

Unlike the relatives of other victims who were satisfied with the decision, Castillo broke down after hearing the decision in the decade-long trial.

“I am confused... I am so frustrated,” Castillo, who is in the United States, told The STAR in a phone interview minutes after the promulgation of judgment that acquitted all suspects for the death of her father.

“I don’t understand why they accepted the case (in first place). I feel so numb,” she added in a mix of English in Filipino.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who represents Castillo, said he would file an appeal on the civil aspect and request the judge to grant indemnity to the heirs of Momay.

But Castillo said she was not after the money.

“I don’t care about the money, I can live without the compensation,” she said. “I need justice.”

The remains of Momay, photojournalist of Midland Review, were never found.

In 2012, the Department of Justice found probable cause to file the case after a team led by a forensic expert from the Commission on Human Rights verified that the denture discovered at the massacre site was Momay’s.

But in her ruling, Solis-Reyes noted that Momay’s death could not be ascertained as no body was found and that his death certificate was not presented.

“The evidence of the prosecution would then rely on the existence of the denture to come up with the following conclusions: (1) the denture belonged to Momay; and (2) the recovery of the denture in Sitio Masalay meant that Momay was one of the victims,” read the ruling.

“The court finds that the probative value of the denture does not lead to the aforesaid conclusions,” it added.

The judge said that the prosecution unsuccessfully established that the denture belonged to Momay as the “mere say-so of the prosecution witnesses that the victim wore the subject denture will not amply establish its identity.”

Assuming that it was indeed his, Solis-Reyes said that its presence would not necessarily mean that Momay died at the hands of the accused.

JOCELYN SOLIS-REYES

RTC

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