MANILA, Philippines – The family of Reynaldo Momay will go to the Court of Appeals (CA) to appeal the acquittals that effectively discounted him as the 58th victim of the brutal Ampatuan massacre.
In a Notice of Appeal filed before Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on Friday, January 3, the heirs of Momay said that “they are appealing to the honorable Court of Appeals both the criminal and civil aspects” of the regional court’s verdict.
Momay’s kin are heading to the Court of Appeals with the families of the following massacre victims who are only seeking to appeal the civil aspect of the decision: McDelbert Arriola, Gina dela Cruz, Jose “Jhoy” Duhay, Jolito Evardo, Santos “Jun” Gatchalian, Eduardo and Cecil Lechonsito, Bienvenido Legarda Jr, Lindo Lupogan, Rey Merisco, Marife Montaño, Victor Nuñez, Joel Parcon, Alejandro Reblando Sr, Napoleon Salaysay, Francisco Subang, Jephon Cadagdagon, and Daniel Tiamzon.
Why the appeal? Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes ruled on December 19, 2019, to convict the Ampatuan brothers and their cohorts for the murder of only 57 people in 2009, excluding Momay.
Momay was a 61-year-old photojournalist believed to be killed in the massacre but his body could not be found in the mass grave site, save for dentures believed to be his.
In her decision, Reyes said: "None of the witnesses recovered the cadaver of Momay in the massacre site. His live-in partner, Marivic Bilbao, and relatives did not find his body in any of the funeral parlors in Koronadal, Isulan, and Tacurong City. None of the documentary evidence showed the death certificate of the victim."
The argument: The Momay family is going against jurisprudence in their appeal as past Supreme Court decisions mandate that appealing an acquittal violates the doctrine against double jeopardy, which prevents an accused from being held on trial again after an acquittal.
The Momay kin argued that the doctrine of double jeopardy was questionably set during the colonial occupation of the Philippines by the United States – when the US Supreme Court overruled a decision by the Philippine Supreme Court to convict a once-acquitted American lawyer, Thomas Kepner, for stealing.
For the Momay family, “the imposition of said doctrine in the Philippines and its continuing use in the country – even after the Philippines gained independence and had its own sovereign constitution – violates the constitutional provisions and equal protection and due process.” – Rappler.com