For kin of 58th Ampatuan massacre victim, quest for justice still continues

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
For kin of 58th Ampatuan massacre victim, quest for justice still continues
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 a photojournalist is still searching for justice 11 years after he was reportedly killed along with 57 others on Nov. 23, 2009, in the deadliest instance of political violence in the Philippines.

In December 2019, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 handed out the historic verdict that convicted 43 people over only 57 counts of murder, excluding the death of Reynaldo Momay. While dentures believed to be his were found at the site of the mass grave, his body could not be located.

In her decision, Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes said that the prosecution failed to establish that Momay reached the site where the massacre took place and experienced the same danger that other victims faced. The court also said that the prosecution failed to show that the dentures belonged to the Midland Review lensman.

Ma. Reynafe Castillo, Momay’s daughter, stressed Monday that the fight to recognizing his father as the 58th victim of the gruesome massacre continues.

“It is 58… Let us remember: the 58th victim was my father and that victim is Reynaldo ‘Bebot’ Momay,” Castillo, who is based in the United States, said in a forum organized by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All network Monday.

“He was there among those victims. The only reason why he lost his life was because of his profession—the profession that he did not only love, but the profession that guards and defends every citizen’s right to press freedom,” she added.

In January 2020, relatives of Momay filed a notice of appeal, expressing their intention to bring the case to the Court of Appeals.

“I pray and believe that the Constitution will bring justice for me and my father. I can only wish one day that 57 will be up by one,” Castillo said.

Trial of the century

Last year, the Quezon City court convicted Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., his brother Zaldy Ampatuan and 26 others guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing 57 counts of murder. They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole.

Fifteen others were found to have acted as accessories to the crime and were sentenced to up to 10 years and eight months of imprisonment.

“Through Almighty Allah’s provision and guidance, we have received justice of what is dubbed as the trial of the century when Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes handed down the guilty verdict to those who malevolently planned, executed and participated in the massacre,” Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu (Maguindanao) said in a statement.

Eleven years ago, relatives and supporters of Mangudadatu, who was then a gubernatorial candidate, as well as media workers who had accompanied them were kidnapped and later killed. Some people who did not belong to the convoy were also executed.

“The failure to bring all 80 suspects to trial, including police officers and soldiers also poses a great risk for the victims’ family members. Our witnesses too are still plagued by threats and has had several brushes with deaths even after the verdict was affixed – and this will continue on as long as these suspects remain free,” Mangudadatu said.

Far from resolved

But lawyer Nena Santos, private prosecutor in the case, pointed out the fight is not yet over. Most of those who were convicted appealed the verdict before the Court of Appeals. Dozens of suspects also remain at large.

“We can only say that the case is finally resolved when the decision for appeal is already issued and is already certified with finality,” Santos said.

In September, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization heeded the appeals of relatives of slain journalists, media groups and civil society organizations to reclassify the carnage as an unresolved case. This, after the organization previously considered the case as “resolved.”

“How can others say the case has been resolved?” Grace Morales said. Her husband Rosell—a reporter for News Focus—and her sister Marites—a radio reporter for DxBx—were among the victims of the massacre.

“We are still here fighting… We are still calling for justice because what we attained was not full justice,” Morales added.



As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 18, 2020 - 2:39pm

The Maguindanao massacre is the world’s deadliest attack on journalists, 32 of the 58 victims in the massacre were members of the press. 

March 18, 2020 - 2:39pm

Another state witness in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre survived an ambush in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao on Tuesday.

The incident came just three months after the vice mayor of the same municipality was seriously wounded in a similar attack.

Muhammad Sangki and four companions were together in a van when gunmen shot at them with assault rifles in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

The scene of the ambush is a short distance from the Maguindanao provincial hospital and the provincial police office.

The 56-year-old Sangki was one of the witnesses in the trial over the gruesome politically-motivated murder of 58 people in nearby Ampatuan town on November 23, 2009.

Sangki and his companions survived the attack unscathed.— The STAR/John Unson 


January 22, 2020 - 12:24pm

A policeman implicated in the 2009 massacre of 58 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao surrendered on Tuesday.

PO1 Ysmael Baraguir—under the new Philippine National Police rank system, the equivalent rank is patrolman—yielded to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Bangsamoro Region after 10 years in hiding.

He surrendered through the intercession of local officials and of Police Col. James Gulmatico, chief of the CIDG for the Bangsamoro region.

CIDG agents fetched Baraguir from an interior area in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao on Tuesday night.

He is now in the custody of the CIDG. —The STAR/John Unson

January 3, 2020 - 5:22pm

Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, former regional governor, appeals conviction by filing notice of appeal before Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221,  which found him guilty of 57 counts of murder in December last year.

Zaldy will directly appeal the verdict to the Court of Appeals. — via Janvic Mateo, The STAR

January 2, 2020 - 5:28pm

Former Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao Mayor Anwar Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid appeal guilty verdict in Ampatuan Massacre case, The STAR's Janvic Mateo reports.

December 19, 2019 - 2:46pm

Although the guilty verdict on the massacre is welcome, members of the National Union of Journalists in the Philipines-Baguio and Benguet say all involved in the Nov.23, 2009 killings should be “brought to the bar of justice”.

"Justice will only be fully served when all of those involved and responsible are brought to the bar of justice," they say.

"But then this is just partial justice because many of the accused were acquitted while 80 more accused remain at large," NUJP-Baguio Benguet says, noting that “still impunity continues to reign that emboldens perpetrators and masterminds of gruesome attacks against journalists and the people knowing that they can escape unscathed.” — The STAR / Artemio Dumlao


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