Daughter of 58th Ampatuan Massacre victim: “Sad day for me and my family”

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 December) – Nurse Reynafe Momay-Castillo stayed up late Wednesday night in the United States (Thursday morning in the Philippines) to watch the verdict on the Ampatuan Massacre online, only to find out that the court convicted the principal suspects on 57 counts of murder, excluding his father, Reynaldo Momay of Midland Review, because the court found that “whether Momay died or was missing” after November 23, 2009 “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 said.

“Sad day for me and my family. Justice for my Dad! #58,” Reynafe wrote on her Facebook page.

Bodies exhumed from the mass graves at the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in this photo taken on 25 Novmber 2009. The remains of Reynaldo Momay, photographer at the Midland Review in Tacurong City, were never found, but for his dentures at the massacre site. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

In a telephone interview at 7 p.m. Thursday (Philippine time), Reynafe told MindaNews that she watched the proceedings alone because other family members were at work.

As soon as she heard “57 counts of murder,”  she recalled feeling numb. “Nag-numb ko. Pag-ingon pa lang nga 57 counts, murag nag black out na ko. Wa na ko kasabot sa akong gitan-aw” (I felt numb. When I heard 57 counts,  I blacked out. I couldn’t understand what I was watching).

The remains of her father, a photographer at Midland Review in Tacurong City, were never found, only his dentures at the massacre site.

She fought for three long years to have her father, a photographer at Midland Review in Tacurong City, included in the case as the 58th victim.

Reynafe Momay-Castillo says she will not give up until justice is served. Her father, Reynaldo Momay, photographer at Midland Review in Tacuong City, was among 58 victims of the 2009 massacre. His remains, however, were never found, but for his dentures found in the massacre site. Photo from Reynafe’s FB page

In 2012, when her father’s name was finally included in the roster of victims, Reynafe dubbed it “the second victory.” Her “first victory,” she said, was “when my father was enlisted as 58th victim thought not yet officially recognized that time.”

“Now, 58 victims (including my father) are still waiting for that ‘final victory’, for the guilty to be charged, for justice to prevail,” she told MindaNews in September 2012.

The ‘final victory’ came, but excluded her father.

The court said the evidence of the prosecution relied only 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 who was killed on November 23, 2009.”

The prosecution, it noted, “altogether failed to show whether Momay himself reached Sitio Masalay and experienced the same danger that the other victims of the convoy faced. Absent such moral certainty, this court is not convinced that the accused murdered Reynaldo G. Momay.”

The court explained that regardless of the number of counts of the crime in the Information, “an accused is still presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”

“No less than proof beyond reasonable doubt is required to sustain a conviction.  On the whole, this court views that the evidence adduced by the prosecution would not prove with moral certainty that accused should be convicted for the serious crime of murder” in the case of Momay.

Reynafe said her lawyers have informed her they would file a motion for reconsideration and appeal to the higher court if denied.

As she had fought for her father’s right to be the 58th victim,  Reynafe says she will continue fighting until justice is served.

On the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre last month, Reynafe said that for a decade, she “never let go of the fight to seek justice. I never once thought that I am on the losing end. I still have the light of hope that the lives lost were for a cause.”

“My father’s life is not just a speck. He was all the father that I had. The same is quite true to the families left without a mother, a father, a friend and a colleague. A decade had passed but the outcry is still the same. That is, to end impunity,” Reynafe wrote. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)