Family of 58th Maguindanao massacre victim still searching for justice

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Justice has been served for most of the victims of the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre on December 19, but one family continues to grieve without closure.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — Justice has been finally served 10 years after the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre, which claimed 58 lives.

On Thursday, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ruled that brothers Datu Andal 'Unsay' Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan were guilty of 57 counts of murder for the 2009 massacre, along with 26 others. The court sentenced them to a maximum of 40 years in prison, without the benefit of parole or early release.

Left out of the courtroom cheers for the verdict was the family of photojournalist Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay. The court declared all of the accused acquitted of the murder charge for his death, as the court ruled that his body has not been found in the mass grave where the bodies of the slain convoy of the Mangudadatu family — which included fellow media workers — were buried.

LIVE UPDATES: Maguindanao massacre verdict

The international group Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) counts Momay as among those killed in the Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009. Momay, who works for Mindanao newspaper Midland Review, is said to be part of the convoy accompanying Bai Genalyn Mangudadatu but his remains were not immediately identified.

She was on her way to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, against Unsay Ampatuan as provincial governor.

At least three witnesses testified seeing Momay joining the convoy from Buluan, although one noted that Momay was not seen riding a Toyota Grandia van for field reporters. Based on other testimonies, that car was met with gunshots.

Citing sources, CPJ said Momay's dentures were found at the hilltop where the bodies were dumped. However, the court acquitted all of the accused for his death "on the ground of reasonable doubt."

"Whether Momay died or was missing after said date could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced. He has no cadaver and neither was his death certificate presented on record," the court ruled.

Claim has no teeth

Momay's live-in partner Marivic Bilbao came to court to testify that Momay was part of the press pool which accompanied the Mangudadatus that morning. She also attested that the dentures recovered in the mass grave was Momay's, claiming that she cleaned them for him everyday for six years. However, the court said the claim was not established.

"The court can only surmise that Bilbao resorted to this kind of narration in order to convince it of her ability to identify said denture as belonging to Momay. Regrettably, the court is not convinced," the 761-page decision read, noting that her tale about cleaning her partner's dentures daily was not "normal human behavior."

READ: Everything you need to know about the Maguindanao massacre

Judy Agor, the wife of Momay's niece, also testified in court to report that the slain journalist had borrowed a motorcycle to head to a press conference in Buluan, Mangudadatu's bailiwick. It was from there where the convoy traveled to Shariff Aguak and was ambushed by Ampatuan and his men. The motorcycle was found inside the Mangudadatu compound after the massacre.

The court said state lawyers failed to show if Momay reached Sitio Masalay and was part of those ambushed and brutally killed by Ampatuan's group.

Claims forfeited

Without any of the 99 accused found accountable for Momay's death, the court also dismissed the claim for damages filed by his family.

Each of the families of the 57 killed have been entitled to at least ₱350,000 in civil indemnity, moral damages, exemplary damages, and temperate damages.

Maguindanao massacre: How the Ampatuans allegedly killed 58 people

The court also ordered varying payments to cover the loss of earning capacity brought about by the sudden death of their kin, which ranges from ₱560,001 to as high as ₱23.13 million for the heirs of Jephone Cadagdagon. The court provided detailed computations for this, which depended on the incomes of the slain.

Momay's daughter, Ma. Reynafe Castillo, lamented the court's verdict, saying their family is still in search of justice.

"I need justice for my dad. Kapag 'di kumpleto ang numero, 'di kumpleto ang hustisya [Justice is not complete without the right number]," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also quoted Castillo as saying.

Lawyer Harry Roque told the court that their camp will appeal the denial of damages for Momay's family.