Journalists remembered the death of photojournalist Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, the 58th victim who was left out in the historic, long-awaited verdict against the Ampatuan clan on December 19.
After 10 years since the bloody massacre in Maguindanao, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 found the two prominent Ampatuan clan members Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan, along with 28 other principal accused, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for committing 57 counts of murder.
Ampatuan and his brother were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole.
Previous reports pointed out that there were 58 victims. Unfortunately, the remains of the 58th victim, Momay, were never found. Only his dentures were recovered in the crime scene during the investigation.
Veteran journalist Nonoy Espina shared Momay’s photo on Facebook as tribute and captioned it with: “He is not forgotten or missing. He is Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, photojournalist. The 58th victim.”
He is not forgotten or missing. He is Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay, photojournalist. The 58th victim.#FIGHTFOR58
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said they believed that the 55 suspects who were acquitted and other 80 who are still at large are guilty for Momay’s death.
[Statement] Guilty verdict a monumental step in the unfinished fight for justiceThe National Union of Journalists of…
“We lament that 55 of the accused including some key Ampatuan clan members were acquitted. At least 80 of those accused also remain at large. We believe they are guilty in the death of Reynaldo ‘Bebot’ Momay Jr. whose remains have still not been found,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“Justice is not yet complete for Bebot and until the last of those responsible with blood in their hands are made accountable,” they added.
Such decision is still significant for attaining justice, the group stressed, and commended the families of the victims for not giving up for it.
“The convictions and indemnification can never bring back the lives of the victims and erase the pain of the families who lost their loved ones. But these, in some way, alleviate the suffering that they have endured for the past 10 years,” NUJP said.
Not missing or forgotten
Momay, who died at 61, was a part-time photojournalist for a weekly newspaper in Mindanao called the Midland Review.
Momay’s daughter, Ma. Reynafe Momay-Castillo, Marivic Bilbao, Momay’s live-in partner, and other witnesses previously testified he was part of Esmael Mangudadatu’s convoy on November 2009.
However, the court was not convinced.
“Whether Momay died or was missing after said date 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 ruled.
The missing body might have been lost due to the mishandling and chaos that transpired when the bodies were recovered, according to Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde in an article from The New York Times in 2010.
“It has been a macabre year for Ms. Castillo and her family. It began after the remains of the massacre victims were recovered, at funeral homes where some families quarrelled over bodies, many of them too decomposed to be readily identified,” Conde wrote.
The international group Committee to Protect Journalists also counted Momay as among the journalists killed in the tragedy it described as “the deadliest event for the press ever recorded.”
Amid the cheers the followed the decade-long trial, Castillo expressed sadness that justice is yet out of reach for her family.
“Sad day for me and my family. Justice for my dad!” Castillo posted on Facebook.