Ampatuans appeal court’s verdict on 2009 massacre; heirs of victims appeal, too

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 January) — Members of the Ampatuan clan who last month were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the 2009 massacre of 57 persons and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole, have filed notices of appeal as did heirs of the 57 victims and the 58th.

Andal Ampatuan, Jr.,  who was mayor of Datu Unsay town at the time of the massacre and who planned to run unopposed as Governor of Maguindanao in the 2010 elections,  and his elder brother Zaldy, then on his second term as Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), opted, separately, to appeal the decision before the Court of Appeals while another brother, Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town, and his sons Anwar Jr. aka Datu Ipi and Anwar Sajid aka Datu Ulo, filed a motion for reconsideration before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 in Quezon City.

Then ARMM Governor Zadly Ampatuan (L) and brother Andal Ampatuan Jr. (R, face coverd), when the latter was turned over to Secretary Jesus Dureza at the compound of the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, on 26 November 2009. Andal Jr. was flown to General Santos City, en route to Manila. Mindanews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

In a statement, Harry Roque, lawyer of some of the victims, said the Ampatuans have the right to appeal but he doubts if the Court of Appeals “will disturb the finding of the fact that they are murderers.”

The heirs of 18 victims also filed a notice of appeal on January 3 before the sala of Judge Reyes that they would appeal the ruling on the “civil aspect of the Consolidated Partial Decision dated 19 December 2019, for being contrary to the facts, jurisprudence, applicable laws, and pertinent provisions of the Revised Rules of Court.”

Those who appealed the ruling on the civil aspect are the heirs of victims Mcdelbert Arriola,  Gina Dela Cruz, Jose “Jhoy” Duhay, Jolito Evardo, Santos “Jun” P. Gatchalian, Eduardo and Cecil Lechonsito,  Bienvenido Legarta Jr.,  Lindo Lupogan, Rey Merisco, Marife Montaño, Victor Nuñez, Joel V. Parcon, Alejandro P. Reblando Sr., Napoleon Salaysay, Francisco Subang, Jephon Cadagdagon and Daniel Tiamzon.

The heirs of Reynaldo Momay,  the 58th victim, will also go to the Court of Appeals to appeal the ruling on both the criminal and civil aspects.

Fifty eight persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, when a convoy of vehicles led by Bai Genalin Mangudadatu, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu, on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao, was stopped by about a hundred armed men led by Andal Ampatuan, Jr., and were ordered at gunpoint to turn left to a hilltop in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, town where they were massacred, some of them buried, along with three vehicles, using a backhoe of the provincial government of Maguindanao.

155.5 million pesos

Judge Reyes ordered Andal Jr., his brothers Zaldy and Anwar and 25 other principals who were found guilty, to pay the heirs of 57 victims a total of 155.5  million pesos for civil indemnity; moral, exemplary, temperate and actual damages; and loss of earning capacity.

“All the principal accused are likewise ordered to pay the following heirs jointly and severally,” the judge said in her 761-page decision.

Ampatuans, et al ordered to pay heirs of 57 victims a total of PhP 155.5-M

The amounts vary, with 300,000 pesos as the lowest and 23.56 million pesos as the highest.

All 57, according to the ruling, will receive 350,000 pesos each  for civil indemnity (100,000 pesos), moral damages (100,000), exemplary (100,000). Most were given temperate damages of 50,000 as their claimed actual damages were not accepted for lack of receipts and other evidence. The total amounts for each victim vary due to actual damages and loss of earning capacity.

“We feel that the damages awarded should be substantially more,” Roque said, noting that moral damages “should not just be Php100,000 given the state of the remains of the victims loved ones when they identified them at the crime scene.”

Children of the media victims in the infamous Ampatuan massacre 10 years ago continue to cry for justice as they visited the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Sunday (17 November 2019). MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

“Civil indemnity should be more than Php100,000 as human lives should cost more than this. And exemplary damages should be more than Php100,000 to send the message that the State will not tolerate the killing of journalists. We maintain that all our clients, and not just one, should be awarded at least 20 million in damages,” he said.

If all 28 principals were to equally divide the total amount of 155,524,215 pesos that they have been ordered to pay to the heirs of the 57 victims, that would be 5,554,436.25 million pesos each.  The wealthiest among the 28 are Andal Jr., and Zaldy.

Momay as 58th victim

The court dismissed the claim for damages of the heirs of the 58th victim, Midland Review photographer Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay murder because “the court is convinced that the prosecution was not able to sufficiently establish the death of victim Reynaldo Momay. Hence, the court cannot grant any damages to his heirs.”

Judging on the criminal aspect, the court said that  “whether Momay died or was missing” after November 23, 2009 “could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced.”

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

“He has no cadaver and neither was his death certificate presented on record,” the court said.

Roque said Momay’s heirs “are entitled even to a declaration that he too perished in the massacre and is not just a victim of enforced disappearance.”

Momay’s daughter, Reynafe Castillo, a nurse now based in the United States, has repeatedly said she is not after any monetary consideration. “All I want is justice for my dad,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)