PNP chief DG Oscar Albayalde updates on the killing of Ako Bicol Party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe during a press briefing at the PNP NHQ, Camp Crame. Also in photo is his son Atty. Justin Batocabe. Suspects include rebel returnees, CAFGU members, a former military personnel with honorable dismissal who were under the payroll of Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo but are also gun-for-hire for others. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON
The Philippine National Police on Thursday tagged Mayor Carlwyn Baldo of Daraga, Albay province, as the brains behind the killing last month of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe.
The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed murder and frustrated homicide charges against Baldo and six men at the Albay provincial prosecutor’s office around noon on Thursday, shortly after PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde announced the results of the police investigation of Batocabe’s murder at a news conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Albayalde said the six other men charged were employed as confidential staff under fictitious names at the office of the mayor in Daraga.
They are former soldiers and militiamen and former members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), Albayalde said.
Solved but not closed
Albayalde identified them as former Army soldiers Christopher Naval, Jaywin Babor and Danilo Muella, former militiaman Emmanuel Rosello, and former NPA rebels Henry Yuson and Rolando Arimado.
Naval and Rosello have been arrested, while Baldo and the others remain at large, Albayalde said.
“Not all the suspects have been accounted for. So the case is solved, but not closed,” Albayalde said.
He said police needed a court-issued warrant to arrest Baldo and the other suspects.
Baldo faced reporters in Daraga later on Thursday to deny involvement in the killing of Batocabe.
Reading from a statement, Baldo said he was being used as a “convenient scapegoat.”
“Those who are truly responsible for the crime remain free and blameless. I am an easy target but that does not make me guilty of crime,” he said.
Baldo did not say what he would do next.
Batocabe and his police bodyguard, SPO2 Orlando Diaz, were shot dead by four to six men as they left a Christmas event for senior citizens at Barangay Burgos, in the mountainous part of Daraga, on Dec. 22.
Batocabe had planned to run for mayor of Daraga in midterm elections in May.
Family members said Batocabe received death threats after a local poll showed him leading the field in the mayoral race.
Speculation centered on Baldo as the mastermind of the attack on Batocabe.
President Duterte, during his visit to Batocabe’s wake last week, also appeared to be referring to Baldo when he announced “strong leads” in the police investigation and cursed a certain “mayor.”
At Thursday’s news conference, Albayalde said Baldo’s involvement was disclosed by Emmanuel Judavar, a former employee of the mayor who claimed that planning for the assassination of Batocabe began in August and that he was part of it but he later backed out.
P5M for the hit
Albayalde said Judavar disclosed the identities of all the men who carried out the plan.
The PNP chief said Naval, sensing the authorities were closing in on him, surrendered on Dec. 30 and gave a statement about his participation in the killing of Batocabe.
Rosello was arrested on Thursday in Daraga, Albayalde said.
Quoting from Naval’s statement, Albayalde said Baldo offered P5 million for the killing of his rival in the mayoral election.
He said Baldo gave P250,000 to buy guns and motorcycles that would be used for the operation.
“[Naval’s] team is composed mostly of former military, paramilitary personnel and NPA rebels who are presently employed under fictitious names as confidential staff of the office of the mayor and each receiving a monthly compensation of P7,000,” Albayalde said.
“[Naval] himself [is] a discharged Army serviceman who once served with the Military Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division stationed in Bicol region,” he said.
Still quoting Naval, Albayalde said it was Yuson who shot Batocabe, while Arimado served as a “backup gunman.”
The others served as lookouts or getaway motorcycle drivers, Albayalde said.
“From all indications, as revealed by the suspects and witnesses, and physical evidence gathered by the police, the group that killed Batocabe and Diaz is a private armed group employed by the mayor that is involved in contract killing as a gun for hire syndicate,” the PNP chief said.
Albayalde said he had ordered the revocation of all firearm licenses that had been issued to Baldo and recommended to the Department of the Interior and Local Government to strip the mayor of supervision over the local police.
“This is a victory of the rule of law in this country. This is also a stern warning against those unscrupulous politicians who would resort to violence to gain elective position. The long arms of the law will eventually catch [up with] you,” Albayalde said.
Malacañang praised the PNP for solving the case.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the PNP’s identification of Baldo as the mastermind was a “breakthrough in the pursuit of justice for the victims and their families.”
In Daraga, Justin Batocabe, the slain lawmaker’s son, thanked the PNP on behalf of his family for solving the case.
“I would like to thank the PNP for their hard work and dedication in the case-building stage in our quest for justice. This is a significant step, but I understand that this is far from over,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MICHAEL JAUCIAN, CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO, REY ANTHONY OSTRIA AND MAR S. ARGUELLES
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