The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed strong suspicions among many after it pointed to Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo as the brains behind the murder of Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security aide last month.
PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Baldo’s involvement in the killing of Batocabe and SPO2 Orlando Diaz last 22 December in Daraga was corroborated by several individuals who came forward to police investigators and confessed.
Albayalde said, based on the investigation, those involved in the actual fatal shooting of Batocabe and Diaz are members of a “private armed group employed by the mayor that is involved in contract killing as a gun-for-hire syndicate.”
“Cases of double murder and multiple frustrated homicide were filed in Albay against the mastermind Mayor Baldo and six others,” Albayalde said.
The chief PNP immediately ordered the revocation of firearms’ licenses and the permit to carry firearms outside of residence issued to Baldo and recommended the removal of his deputation over the local police of Daraga.
Palace commends PNP
Malacañang commended the PNP in the swift resolution of the case.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said close cooperation between the police and the local community was pivotal to the early conclusion of the investigation.
“Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo and all others tagged as suspects in the aforesaid murder, will have their day in court where they can refute the charges hurled against them,” the official said.
“The early solution of the Batocabe murder is the result of this partnership – and credit should be given to them,” he added.
Panelo said while Baldo and his cohorts will be afforded “the constitutional presumption of innocence” and accorded the due process of the justice system, they will not be spared of any punishment if proven guilty for the heinous crime.
“While they are afforded the constitutional presumption of innocence and consequently will be accorded due process, the government shall nonetheless prosecute them for the heinous crime without delay,” he stated.
The spokesman also called on the people to do their part in suppressing lawlessness and other commission of crimes in the society.
“We call on the citizens to be always on the alert and watchful of any activities and/or acts committed by persons which have the appearance of unlawfulness or irregularity amounting to a crime — and report the same to the proper authorities,” Panelo said.
Rule of law victory
“This is a victory of the rule of law in this country. This is also a stern warning to those unscrupulous politicians who will resort to violence to gain elected position. The long arm of the law will eventually catch you,” Albayalde said.
He said the breakthrough in the investigation happened when Christopher Naval, alias Tuping, said to be a trusted aide of Baldo, surrendered to the PNP-Intelligence Group last 30 December due to relentless pursuit operations.
During interrogation, Naval provided vital information to the Batocabe case, leading police operatives to identify those involved in the killing.
Naval confessed the plan to assassinate Batocabe was hatched sometime in August 2018 when Batocabe announced in public his bid for the mayoral post of Daraga.
Shooter got cold feet
This was corroborated by Emmanuel Bonita Judavar who was involved in the initial planning but allegedly backed out during the actual assassination. Judavar earlier had come forward and provided what he knew of the plot to investigators.
Last September, Naval alleged that Baldo offered P5 million for the killing of Batocabe. Initially, the mayor supposedly paid P250,000 to Naval and his group to buy firearms and motorcycles for use in the plot.
“Tuping’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.
Others tagged in the Batocabe killing were Danilo Muella, who acquired two caliber .45 pistols believed to have been used in the murder; Henry Yuson and Rolando Arimado, who are former NPA fighters and tagged as the gunmen; Emmanuel Rosello, the driver of one of the getaway motorcycles and Jaywin Babor, who drove the other getaway motorcycle.
Rosello was arrested yesterday and yielded one of the getaway motorcycles.
Tuping himself was a discharged Army serviceman, who once served with the Military Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division stationed in the Bicol region.
Based on Tuping’s revelation, he purchased two SYM motorcycles in Camalig, Albay using the assumed name Abelardo Castillo while another member of the team, Danilo Muella alias Manoy Dan, acquired two homemade .45-caliber pistols.
Muella is reportedly a former sergeant in the 97th Military Intelligence Company of the 9th Infantry Division.
With Kristina Maralit and Kathleen Mae Bulquerin