SAYING that the “case is solved but not closed,” Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde yesterday tagged Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwin Baldo as the “brains” behind the killing of his closest rival, Ako Bicol partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe and the solon’s policeman-bodyguard last December 22.
Joined by PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Supt. Amador Corpus and PNP Intelligence Group director Sr. Supt. Edgar Monsalve, Albayalde said persons involved in the assassination surrendered to the police and pointed to Mayor Baldo as the one who masterminded the attack that also wounded seven senior citizens.
“I am pleased to announce a major breakthrough in the investigation of the murder of Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security escort, SPO2 Orlando Diaz, in Bgy. Burgos, Daraga, Albay on December 22, 2018,” the PNP chief said in a press conference at Camp Crame.
Albayalde said the names of the seven persons of interest, all employed as confidential staff members of the Office of the Municipal Mayor of Daraga, Albay, have surfaced in the investigation jointly conducted by the PNP-IG and the CIDG.
He said that one of the seven staff members identified as Christopher Cabrera Naval alias “Tuping,” a trusted security aide of Mayor Baldo, was forced to surrender to the PNP-IG last December 30 due to relentless police operations jointly conducted by combined elements of the Police Regional Office 5 Special Investigation Task Group Batocabe, the CIDG and the PNP-IG.
Tuping provided investigators with relevant information surrounding the assassination of Batocabe, the PNP chief said.
Albayalde said that Naval confessed that the plan to assassinate Batocabe was hatched sometime in August 2018 when Batocabe announced in public his bid for the mayoral post of Daraga.
“This was corroborated by Emmanuel Bonita Judavar who was involved in the initial planning but allegedly backed out during the actual assassination,” he said.
Judavar earlier came forward and gave his knowledge to the police about the killing of Rep. Batocabe. According to Tuping, Mayor Baldo allegedly offered P5 million for the hit job on Batocabe last September and paid an initial amount of P250,000 to “Tuping” and his group for the purchase of guns and motorcycles.
“Tuping’s” team is composed mostly of former military, paramilitary personnel and New People’s Army rebels who are presently employed under fictitious names as confidential staff members of the Office of the Mayor and each receiving a monthly compensation of P7,000.
“Tuping” himself was a discharged Army serviceman who once served with the Military Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division stationed in Bicol region, the PNP chief said.
Based on “Tuping’s” revelation, he purchased two SYM motorcycles in Camalig, Albay using the name Abelardo Castillo, while another member of the team, Danilo Muella alias “Manoy Dan,” acquired two homemade cal. .45 pistols.
Muella is reportedly a former Technical Sergeant in the 97th Military Intelligence Company of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division.
According to “Tuping” and Judavar, the first attempt on Batocabe was during the congressman’s routine engagements at radio station DZJB and Hotel Venezia in Legazpi City, a pattern that was observed by the group in its casing and surveillance on the lawmaker.
Based on extra-judicial confession of “Tuping,” revelations made by Judavar, and intelligence research conducted by the IG and CIDG, the other members of “Tuping’s” team and their individual participation in the twin murder case were identified as NPA rebel returnees Henry Yuson alias “Romel/Eno” and Rolando Arimado alias “RR;” Emmanuel Rosello alias “Boboy,” a former CAFGU member; and Jaywin Babor alias “Jie,” an ex-Army soldier.
Yuson was reported to be an NPA rebel who became a militiaman in Bicol under the Army’s 9th IB. He was tagged as the main gunman who shot Batocabe allegedly with a cal. 40 pistol.
Arimado was tagged as the lookout and back-up gunman and was reported to have likewise shot Batocabe and Diaz.
Rosello was identified as the driver of the getaway motorcycle. The suspect was arrested yesterday morning by police operatives in Daraga, Albay. The getaway motorcycle was likewise seized from the suspect’s possession, said PRO5 director Chief Supt. Arnel Escobal.
Babor was also tagged as a driver of another getaway motorcycle.
Albayalde said that from all indications as revealed by the suspects and witnesses and physical evidence gathered by the police, the group that killed Batocabe and Diaz was a private armed group employed by the mayor and involved in contract killing as hired guns.
BATOCABE FAMILY GRATEFUL TO PNP
The Batocabe family yesterday thanked the Philippine National Police for immediately solving the case of the murdered party-list solon and his policeman-bodyguard 13 days after the gun attack in Daraga town that also wounded seven elderly citizens.
“I’m very happy and praise the hardwork of our fine men and women in uniform. It’s very hard for us and the town of Daraga and the province of Albay. But with these product of hard labor, it’s very much welcome. Thank you very much,” said the slain lawmaker’s son, lawyer Justin.
The young Batocabe kept his emotions as Albayalde announced the solution of his dad’s case. He said it would be hard for them to forget that a rogue politician ordered the killing.
“I think it helps us psychologically but to accept that killing someone for money, for political position, that is something we will never accept,” the young Batocabe said.
As a lawyer, the young Batocabe said they would wait for the conduct of the preliminary investigation first. “The next step is to strip them of their capability to inflict people with harm and to capture them and to bring them to justice,” he said.
He added that under the law, only his mother can substitute for his late father. He also said that the mayor can only be disqualified from running in the coming May election once he is found guilty by the court. However, that would be next to impossible since there are only a little over four months left before the mid-term polls.
The PNP chief said that as soon as the court issues a warrant of arrest against the mayor and his co-accused, police will move to arrest all of the accused.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año commended the Philippine National Police led by Albayalde, the Police Regional Office 5, PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the PNP Intelligence Group for solving the case of Batocabe killing.
LAWMAKERS HAIL POLICE
Colleagues of Batocabe in Congress expressed elation over the identification and filing of charges against the solon’s killers and the mastermind behind the killing.
Ako Bicol partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin said that from the beginning, they suspected that it was the hand of Mayor Baldo.
Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said the case was considered solved with the filing of charges against the Daraga mayor.
ALBAY SOLON NEXT TO BE LIQUIDATED?
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda is reportedly the next target of political killings in Albay by the same group that liquidated Batocabe.
According to Garbin, one of the star witnesses who is now under police protection claimed that plans for the killing of Salceda were being readied to be carried out.
Garbin and the Batocabe family have proposed the issuance of a “watchlist bulletin” by the Department of Justice to monitor Baldo’s travels and prevent him from leaving the country.
Salceda, a former governor of Albay, could not be reached for comment on the reported confessions of the three witnesses.
Salceda is reportedly supporting the candidacy of Daraga Vice Mayor Victor Perete for mayor of the town.
With Jester Manalastas, Zaida delos Reyes and Jun Legaspi