Court confirms 58th victim in Ampatuan massacre

Agence France-Presse

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MURDER CHARGE #58. Police investigators looking at dead bodies covered with banana leaves, victims of the massacre in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. File photo from AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine authorities said Wednesday, September 26 that a 58th person was killed in the country’s worst political massacre, after ruling that a journalist missing since the slaughter was among those murdered.

Members of a powerful political clan accused of being behind the 2009 massacre have each been charged with a 58th count of murder for allegedly killing Reynaldo Momay, court official Jimmy Cardines said.

“The court has formally received information from state prosecutors about a 58th murder victim,” Cardines told AFP.

The shootings were allegedly orchestrated by the clan in a bid to stop a local rival from challenging one of them for the post of governor in the southern province of Maguindanao, which the family had ruled for a decade.

Momay, photographer for the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after 57 bodies, including those of 31 other journalists, were dug up from mass graves.

But investigators finally concluded that a set of dentures found at the site belonged to Momay, leading to a formal decision to include him as a victim, said Nestor Burgos of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

“While this belongs to the category of bad news, what is important is that his family can now obtain justice,” Burgos told AFP.

The other victims included relatives of the local political rival, who were abducted on their way to file election papers for their clan patriarch, as well as journalists reporting on the event.

The clan leaders are among 75 people currently on trial for the massacre, but proceedings are expected to take years to complete.

Meanwhile, 94 suspects, mostly clan gunmen, remain at large, fuelling concerns that the victims and their relatives will never see justice done. – Agence France-Presse

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