By CNN Philippines Staff
Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo on Thursday refuted the police’s allegation that he is the main culprit behind the killing of AKO-BICOL Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe.
In a press conference, Baldo maintained his innocence over the lawmaker’s death, saying he is just being used as a “convenient scapegoat.”
“I assert my innocence. Let us not forget that while I am 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 the crime,” he said.
The mayor said he would refrain from further discussing the matter until he receives a formal copy of the complaint.
“I am already being persecuted in the courts of public opinion. I am a public servant at ang gusto ko lang naman po ay magsilbi (and what I wanted is just to serve),” he said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) tagged Baldo as the mastermind in Batocabe’s slay.
According to one of the suspects, Baldo hired six persons to gun down Batocabe and his security on December 22, PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said in a press briefing.
The PNP said one of the six, Christopher Cabrera Naval, surrendered to the PNP Intelligence Group on December 30.
Naval reportedly told the PNP that plans to assassinate Batocabe began as early as August 2018. Baldo allegedly offered them P5 million to kill Batocabe in September 2018 and gave Naval P250,000 for the team to purchase guns and motorcycles for the assassination
The gun-for-hire team was composed of paramilitary personnel, and former communist rebels. A certain Henry Yuson and Rolando Armado were pinpointed as the main gunmen in the killing.
Naval’s accounts coincided with those of Emmanuel Judavar, another co-conspirator in the case who also reportedly backed out from the assassination attempt.
Albayalde said two suspects and a witness are now in police custody.
Cases of double murder and six counts of multiple frustrated murder were filed before the provincial prosecutor’s office of Albay against Baldo and the members of the gun-for-hire group.
“This case, we considered solved but not closed. Why? Some of the suspects are not yet arrested,” Albayalde said.
Justin Batocabe, son of the slain congressman, said the results of the PNP’s investigation helped the family cope psychologically but their family continues to condemn the crime.
“To accept that killing someone for money, for political position, that is something we will never accept,” Batocabe said.
Rep. Batocabe’s wife Gertie previously hinted at a political motive.
Justin Batocabe added the family is currently discussing who will run in the 2019 polls to substitute for the slain lawmaker.
“I can confirm that there are all calls for my mother to substitute for my father,” Justin Batocabe said.
DILG commends PNP
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) lauded the police for identifying Baldo as the suspected brain behind Batocabe’s killing, saying the same “relentless police investigation and intelligence operations” shall be applied ahead of the May elections.
“Let this, therefore, serve as a stern warning against all politicians not to intimidate, harass, or do violence against their political opponents in the forthcoming elections, otherwise the DILG-PNP will run after them and ensure that justice will be served,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.
Año said he had “placed the PNP on heightened alert to monitor the activities of all candidates in the forthcoming elections.”
According to him, cases of double murder and multiple frustrated murder have been filed against Baldo and several other suspects.
The Secretary said the agency will also call for the revocation of the mayor’s authority over the local police of Daraga.
He assured that the DILG and PNP will “dismantle private armed groups of politicians as well as revoke the firearms licenses of those found to be violating the law” regardless of their position in the government.
“The powers of incumbent local chief executives over their local police units will also be revoked should they abuse their authority or otherwise engage in violent activities,” he said.