Witnesses in Rodel Batocabe slay come forward
The Daraga police chief added that they have identified “persons of interest” and others for questioning and background checking. But Balla did not provide names.
Bicol Police
Witnesses in Rodel Batocabe slay come forward
Cet Dematera (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2018 - 12:00am

LEGAZPI CITY  , Philippines  —   At least six witnesses have come forward and issued statements on the killing of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his bodyguard Senior Police Officer 1 Orlando Diaz.

Newly installed Daraga police chief Supt. Dennis Balla said it is a positive development in their efforts to solve the double murder case.

The Daraga police chief added that they have identified “persons of interest” and others for questioning and background checking. But Balla did not provide names.

“We in the Philippine National Police are glad to tell you that witnesses to the Batocabe and Diaz killings are cooperating with us in our serious efforts to bring the perpetrators to the folds of the law,” Balla told a press conference on Monday afternoon at the office of Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo.

Baldo lamented speculations that he was behind Batocabe’s killing.

“These reports are dragging my name down. I accept (the blame), being the mayor of Daraga where this sad incident happened. What I cannot take are insinuations that I am behind this crime. People who know the background of our family (are aware) that we do not resort to violence to resolve issues,” Baldo said.

The mayor dared his accusers to file charges against him if they have proof of his complicity in the crime.

As this developed, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said their group would decide after the burial of Batocabe who would replace the slain lawmaker as mayoralty candidate for Daraga.

“We do not want to discuss this matter at this time (when) everybody is still mourning. But, yes, we will put a replacement to his candidacy,” Garbin told The STAR.

Reds deny role

Meanwhile, the communists in Bicol yesterday denied any role in the killings.

In a statement posted on its website, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and umbrella organization National Democratic Front (NDF), through its Bicol spokesperson Maria Roja Banua condemned the murders.

“The CPP-NPA-NDF Bicol expressed its condolences to the (families of Batocabe, Diaz) and the seven civilians wounded during the attack,” Banua said in Tagalog.

“There is no truth to the statement of the (Philippine National Police) linking the revolutionary movement to the incident. Any NPA unit in Bicol has no involvement in the killing. It has become automatic to the (military and PNP) to blame the NPA in these kind of cases of killings and other crimes to cover up the investigation and hold responsible the perpetrators who belong to their ranks,” Banua said. 

Banua noted that the PNP suddenly linked the CPP-NPA-NDF Bicol and took advantage of spreading fake news during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the CPP to destroy the people’s recognition of the leadership of the party.

“(Batocabe) is not considered as persona non grata of the revolutionary movement in Bicol. The coordination of the revolutionary movement with him is the same with other political leaders who expressed their intention to deliver basic services to the people,” Banua maintained.

Banua added that Ako Bicol has not been charged with “access fee” and “permit to campaign” by the CPP-NPA-NDF. 

Banua also noted that Batocabe has a history of standing for the people such as against the extension of martial law in Mindanao. 

“The killing of (Batocabe) is part of a series of planned high-profile killings of the US-Duterte regime to intensify the war against the revolutionary movement and the people especially in the Bicol region,” Banua said.

Military training

Members of a gun-for-hire group, whom police are eyeing as possible suspects in the killing, have trained in the military, a security official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said these persons underwent training in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“They trained at the Army Scout Rangers, including their leader,” the source said. But the official did not say if the personalities completed training and became soldiers.

The source added some of the suspects’ parents were once affiliated with the communist NPA.

Based on their investigation, the group is allegedly responsible for the murder of police officers and journalists in Bicol.

“They are also involved in extortion,” the source said.

Probers are looking into the possible involvement of the gun-for-hire syndicate in Batocabe’s death because of the similarities in the manner the murder was carried out compared to other killings in the region.

Among the clients of this group, according to police, are unscrupulous politicians.

At least six suspects are believed to have carried out Batocabe’s murder, according to witnesses. They allegedly blended with the crowd to avoid detection.

The PNP will consider the proposal of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for stricter gun control measures following Batocabe’s murder.

“That’s a very good suggestion. We will consider that,” PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told reporters.

Lacson, a former PNP chief, is pushing for stricter gun control, including the suspension of permit to carry firearms outside of residence (PTCFOR) of licensed gun owners.

In response, Albayalde said they will suspend the PTCFOR next month as part of their security preparations for the midterm elections.

“This will be coupled by our intensified police operations,” he said.

SC vows action

The Supreme Court (SC) is set to act on the spate of attacks on lawyers in the country, its spokesman said yesterday.

Court Administrator Midas Marquez said Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin has received the online petition of officials and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) urging the SC to take measures to protect lawyers after some of its members continued to fall prey to heinous criminals, with Batocabe as the latest victim.

“The (CJ) will seek the concurrence of the court in conducting an independent investigation and convening a dialogue between members of the Bar and law enforcers,” Marquez said in a statement.

The IBP petition, signed initially by 78 lawyers, called on the SC to “take immediate action to protect lawyers in the Philippines as they perform their function to protect their clients’ rights and uphold the rule of law.”

The IBP made the appeal as it condemned the killing of Batocabe. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Emmanuel Tupas, Edu Punay

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