Lakas pulls Daraga mayor’s nomination

Delon Porcalla, Cet Dematera - The Philippine Star
Lakas pulls Daraga mayorâs nomination
Lakas-CMD executive director Bautista Corpin Jr. informed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the revocation of Baldo’s Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance as reelectionist mayor of Daraga.
Cet Dematera / File

2 more Batocabe slay suspects tag Baldo

MANILA, Philippines — Carlwyn Baldo, the incumbent mayor of Daraga town in Albay province, lost his nomination yesterday as the official candidate of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in the May 13 mayoralty race after being implicated in the murder of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe. 

Lakas-CMD executive director Bautista Corpin Jr. informed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the revocation of Baldo’s Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance as reelectionist mayor of Daraga. 

Corpin sent the letter to the Comelec’s Law Department on Jan. 3, saying Baldo is no longer the party’s official candidate for mayor of the municipality.

“Regretfully, Baldo has been nominated as the official candidate of Lakas-CMD for mayor of Daraga, Albay. After deliberations, Lakas-CMD has decided to revoke the nomination of Mayor Baldo as the official candidate of the party,” Corpin wrote the Comelec. 

Batocabe was supposed to challenge Baldo in the May elections, and reportedly led the incumbent in surveys. 

Batocabe and his police escort, SPO1 Orlando Diaz, were gunned down as they were about to board their vehicle after a gift-giving event for senior citizens in Barangay Burgos, Daraga on Dec. 22. Six other people were wounded in the incident.

“Thus, Lakas-CMD strongly condemns the killings of Ako Bicol representative Batocabe and his security aide. Violence in any form and for whatever reason has no place in our democratic institutions,” the political party declared.

Taking its cue from the killing of Batocabe, the Comelec regional office has recommended placing the town of Daraga under its full control.

“We decided finally to make recommendation after it appeared that the Batocabe slay is politically motivated,” Albay election officer Romeo Serrano said.

He said they sent their recommendation to the Comelec main office in Manila.

“We already forwarded our recommendation to our central office in order to place Daraga, Albay under Comelec control, that, if approved, would take effect on Jan. 13, which is the official start of the election period,” Serrano said.

Once under Comelec control, Serrano said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are mandated to maintain peace and order in Daraga during the entire election period, particularly on election day.

Serrano said Comelec is authorized to suspend the administrative functions of incumbent local officials such as movement of personnel and spending of funds.

“These could be done by Comelec if only to make sure that election-related activities are not influenced by any person,” he added.

Comelec regional director Maria Juan Valeza said the measure is to ensure a peaceful, clean and credible election in Daraga.

She added it would be the first time that a town in Albay would be placed under Comelec control, saying the province has been peaceful in past political exercises.

All in one

This developed as all six suspects in the murder of Batocabe identified Baldo as their principal.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said the statements given by the six suspects have one thing in common, pointing to Baldo as the one who ordered Batocabe killed.

“They have their testimonies separately and on separate occasions but one thing that stood out during this investigation, during this interview and revelations is that face they are pointing to only one mastermind,” Durana told ANC.

Police said the last two suspects who surrendered, Rolando Arimado and Danillo Muella, also implicated Baldo as the mastermind in the killing.

Officials said all of them were forced to surrender and confess out of fear of being silenced.

Regional police director Chief Supt. Arnel Escobal cited Arimado, one two gunmen in the slaying tagged by their cohorts and witnesses.

“He was afraid because he felt he was going to be killed,” Escobal said.

Four other suspects have turned themselves in to the authorities, including the alleged main gunman, Henry Yuson, who apologized to Batocabe’s family by saying Baldo had ordered him to kill the lawmaker.

The other suspects in police custody are Jaywin Babor, Christopher Naval and Emmanuel Rosello.

Yuson lamented he was double-crossed by Baldo who failed to keep his end of the bargain.

Yuson claimed Naval and Muella plotted the assassination together with Baldo.

He said he was promised a lump sum payment, which authorities tagged as P5 million, if he killed Batocabe, but the money was cornered by Naval and Muella.

Durana said it is now up to prosecutors and the court that will handle the case to weigh the pieces of evidence and testimonies they obtained.

“(And) we are quite confident that we have solved the case,” Durana added.

Police have filed charges of double murder and six counts of frustrated murder against Baldo and the six suspects before the Albay Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges came following the separate statements of the suspects and witnesses, all pointing to Baldo as the alleged mastermind in the killing.

The six suspects, including the two gunmen, are now in police custody while Baldo, the principal suspect, remains free.

Supt. Dennis Balla, Daraga police chief, explained the apparent delay in the arrest of Baldo.

He said the charges have to undergo the regular filing process since it is not a case of inquest filing and the suspects are already in police custody while complaints against them are being filed.

An official of the Daraga town mayor’s office said Baldo has yet to receive the subpoena from the Albay Prosecutor’s Office.

The official claimed Baldo is just waiting for the opportunity to answer all the accusations linking him to the killing of Batocabe and his bodyguard.

Batocabe’s colleagues in the House of Representatives welcomed the developments.

“We thank the Philippine National Police for their swift action in resolving the case. And we fervently hope that all the suspects, including the alleged mastermind, are penalized to the full force of the law to give justice to Rodel’s family,” 1Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero said. 

“We appreciate the swift action but the next thing to do now is make sure that the mastermind and his cohorts should be arrested and convicted,” Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento said, underscoring the need for an airtight case against the suspects. 

“We’ve seen so many cases that were eventually dismissed because the evidence presented by the police was not good enough. We want justice for Congressman Batocabe,” Sarmiento added. 

The congressmen contributed at least P5 million – on top of President Duterte’s P20 million and Ako Bicol’s P15 million – as reward money for those who could help solve the crime. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Mayen Jaymalin

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