Body not found but 58th massacre victim recognized
Although his body has not been found, Reynaldo Momay, a photojournalist from General Santos City, has been formally recognized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the 58th victim of the “Maguindanao Massacre” in 2009.
In a DOJ resolution, Assistant State Prosecutor Bernardo Parico said the dentures recovered at the crime scene in Barangay (village) Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, as well as statements of witnesses that Momay was among those killed were enough evidence to prove that he was a victim.
Momay, 63, was working for the weekly community paper Midland Review when he joined a convoy of 58 people that accompanied the wife of then Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan town in Maguindanao to the capital, Shariff Aguak, to file his certificate of candidacy for governor on Nov. 23, 2009.
All of them, including 32 media workers, were killed allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and their henchmen in Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, 3.5 kilometers from the national highway in Ampatuan town. Some were buried along with three vehicles, while others were shot in the head.
Murder charges have been filed against 197 people, including former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., in Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.
Only 96, however, have been arrested and detained, and 78 of them have already been arraigned.
New set of charges
With Momay’s inclusion as the 58th victim, state prosecutors filed a new set of charges on Monday. The court’s clerk, Jimmy Cardines, received the revised complaint.
The additional information could mean that all 78 accused, previously arraigned for 57 counts of murder, have to go through an arraignment for the 58th count. Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has yet to acknowledge the DOJ information and rule on whether those previously arraigned would have to make their pleas of guilty or not guilty on the 58th count.
Without an earlier proof of his death, Momay’s name was not counted among the official victims in legal proceedings of the case. As such, the court has been hearing only 57 counts of murder.
In the DOJ resolution issued on July 12 but filed in court only on Friday, Parico said the evidence was sufficient that Momay was murdered and recommended that the 96 respondents in the massacre case be additionally indicted for Momay’s death.
In January, the photojournalist’s daughter, Ma. Reynafe Momay-Castillo, filed a murder complaint against the massacre suspects, saying Momay was part of the ambushed convoy of media men and relatives of Mangudadatu.
Castillo said her father had called a friend before the massacre and confirmed that he was in a vehicle along with other journalists on their way to Shariff Aguak.
Momay’s body was never found, although a forensics expert from the Commission on Human Rights claimed to have recovered parts of his dentures. Castillo said the expert had concluded that the dentures did not belong to any of the 57 bodies recovered from the massacre site.
The herbalist who made the dentures identified them as her father’s, Castillo said. She added that there were witnesses who would testify that he was among the journalists who joined the convoy.
As of Tuesday night, Momay’s relatives could not be reached for comment. Castillo left the country last month and joined her mother in the United States. With reports from Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; Inquirer Research; and AP
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