MANILA — A lawyer for the 58th Maguindanao massacre victim whose body remains missing is not giving up, saying he would seek civil damages for the family even if his death was not covered in Thursday’s ruling convicting the masterminds of the 2009 mass killings.
A total of 28 accused, led by 3 members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, were sentenced to up to 40 years in prison with no parole over the grisly murders where bodies were mutilated and dumped hurriedly in a mass grave a decade ago.
But the ruling by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes found them guilty on 57 murders because the body of the 58th fatality, photographer Reynaldo Momay, remained missing.
”I have manifested that we will appeal the civil aspect of the case kasi they are at least entitled to some kind of a court judgment that Momay was in fact a victim,” lawyer Harry Roque told reporters after the promulgation of judgment.
Roque appealed to media groups to help finance digging in the mass grave in Maguindanao “because we’re sure the remains of Momay is just somewhere around.”
Relatives of other victims said they were satisfied with the ruling even if many others were acquitted.
“Ok lang po. At least ang principal suspects, 'yung pinaka-may command sa barilin 'yung mga biktima, convicted na po sila kaya masayang-masaya kami,” said Monet Salaysay, whose husband Napoleon, a former radio station manager, was among the victims.
(It's OK. At least the principal suspects, those who had command to shoot victims, they were convicted that's why we're very happy.)
His killers were ordered to pay his family at least P2.5 million in damages, including loss of earning capacity.
Salaysay acknowledged that those convicted in the Maguindanao massacre could still seek reconsideration and later appeal the ruling.
“Kampante na kami. Wala na 'yun. Wala nang pag-asang makalabas pa 'yun. Sa ginawa nila, sa dinami-dami ng pinatay nila, makalabas pa ba 'yun?” she told reporters.
(We're at peace. That's it. They have no hope to ever get out of prison. With what they did, with the number of people they killed, would they still be able to get out of prison?)
Among those convicted of 57 murders were Datu Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr., Datu Anwar Sajid “Datu Ulo” Ampatuan, Datu Anwar “Datu Ipi” Ampatuan Jr., and Datu Zaldy Ampatuan.
But Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, who was out on bail and did not attend the promulgation, and Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan were acquitted.
Roque said the ruling favoring Sajid Ampatuan was not as surprising because the accused had already been allowed to post bail.
“But I was surprised with Tato because bail was denied on Jan. 8, 2015 so evidence of guilt was strong,” the lawyer said.