Kin of Maguindanao massacre's 58th victim takes case dismissal to Court of Appeals

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Kin of Maguindanao massacre's 58th victim takes case dismissal to Court of Appeals
This handout from the Supreme Court - Public Information Office (SC-PIO) taken and released on December 19, 2019 shows a court employee (R) reading the verdict for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre at the trial venue inside a prison facility in Manila.
Supreme Court Public Information Office / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The family of Reynaldo Momay, the 58th victim of the Ampatuan massacre but whose murder case against suspects was junked, will appeal the civil and criminal aspect of the ruling to the Court of Appeals.

Momay’s family, through their lawyers, filed a Notice of Appeal before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 informing the court that they intend to raise to the Court of Appeals both the criminal and civil aspects of the case.

The appeal was filed despite the rule on double jeopardy or the prohibition “against being twice put in jeopardy.”

Double jeopardy means having the accused answer twice of the same offense.

QC RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes convicted 28 people on 57 counts of murder, and did not count for the murder of Momay as his body was never found.

While the court noted that Momay was part of the convoy of journalists that was ambushed, prosecutors only relied on his dentures.

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 [sic] for six years since 2003 was an "implausible narrative."

‘Double jeopardy unconstitutional’

Momay’s family argued that “the Supreme Court needs to revisit and reverse this doctrine [against double jeopardy] because it has unconstitutional applicability in the Philippines.”

They noted that the doctrine on double jeopardy was an imposition of the United States as a colonial power in a 1904 case.

The said case involved Thomas Kepner, an American lawyer practicing in Manila charged with stealing from his client, who was acquitted by the trial court. The Philippine Supreme Court later convicted him on appeal, but Kepner raised it to the United States Supreme Court which reversed his conviction through the American concept of double jeopardy, said the Momay family’s lawyers.

“The imposition of the 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,” their pleading read.

“This case presents itself as the perfect opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit and remove a colonially imposed alien doctrine,” they added.

In the same Notice of Appeal, some of the victims’ kin informed the court of their appeal on the civil aspect of the case filed before the Court of Appeals.

Zaldy Ampatuan elevates case to Court of Appeals

Meanwhile, murder convict Zaldy Ampatuan, former regional governor, also filed his Notice of Appeal before the court asking it to transmit the records of the case to the Court of Appeals.

Zaldy earlier asked the court to allow him to be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison infirmary, citing health reasons.

The court classified Zaldy under the second class of suspects or those who had prior knowledge of the murder plot but were not at the crime scene.

The ruling noted that while they did not participate in the actual killings, their actions still “had for their purpose the attainment of their common objective of committing the unlawful act.”

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. alias "Unsay," Zaldy’s fellow convict, also filed a Notice of Appeal before the same court.

Other convicts, Anwar Ampatuan Sr. and sons Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid, filed their respective motions for reconsideration before the QC court. In their appeal, they questioned the credibility of suspect-turned-state witness Sukarno Badal whose testimony was crucial in their conviction.

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