READ: Batocabe murder: Rody gives hint on mastermindBaldo asserted his innocence in a press conference and conveyed his sympathies to the families of Batocabe and his security detail.
“Let us not forget that while I’m being used as convenient scapegoat, those who are truly responsible for the crime remain free and blameless,” the mayor said.
“I am an easy target but that does not make me guilty of the crime,” Baldo added. “I am already being persecuted in the courts of public opinion. I am a public servant and I just want to serve.”
“To the victims who were caught in the line of fire and to the people of Daraga, in our quest for justice, let us avoid committing injustice,” he said.
The Palace commended the PNP for bringing the investigation to a swift conclusion, calling its findings “a breakthrough in the pursuit of justice for the victims and their families.”
Albayalde told a press briefing Thursday that Baldo’s involvement in the killing was revealed after a discharged Army soldier, Emmanuel Bonita Judavar, came forward and told the police that the plan to kill Batocabe was hatched in August 2018, when the lawmaker announced he would run for mayor in the 2019 elections.
Judavar said he was part of the group involved in the initial planning but said he backed out when it came time to execute the plan.
“So this shows it was Mayor Baldo who paid them,” Albayalde said.
Baldo’s allegations were reinforced by the testimony of Christopher Naval alias Tuping, a trusted security aide of the mayor.
Tuping said Baldo had offered P5 million for the job to kill Batocabe sometime in September 2018 and paid an initial P250,000 to Tuping and his group for the purchase of guns and motorcycles.
Cases of double murder and multiple frustrated homicide were filed against Baldo, who had earlier denied any role in the killings, and other suspects.
Reports said Tuping was a discharged Army soldier, formerly assigned with the Military Intelligence Battalion in the 9th Infantry Division based in the Bicol region.
Albayalde said Naval surrendered after a relentless police campaign to arrest the seven people suspected of staging the ambush.
Albayalde said they considered the case solved but not closed because other suspects were still at large.
He said an investigation by the Intelligence Group and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group showed that the seven persons of interest were employed as confidential staff in the Office of the Mayor of Daraga.
Albayalde said the team assigned to kill Batocabe was composed mostly of former military men, militiamen, and members of the New People’s Army using fictitious names.
He identified the other suspects as militiaman and former NPA rebel Henry Yuson, rebel returnee Rolando Arimado, former militiaman Emmanuel Rosello, and former Army soldier Jaywin Babor.
In a radio interview, Albayalde tagged Yuson, who has a standing warrant of arrest for rape, as the gunman that shot Batocabe in the back after a gift-giving event in his home town.
Rosello was arrested early Thursday morning by agents in Daraga, Albay, bringing to four the number of suspects in the custody of the police.
“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,” the PNP said in a statement.
Albayalde has ordered the revocation of firearms licenses and permit to carry firearms outside of residence of the mayor and has recommended the removal of his deputation over the local police of Daraga, Albay.
“This is a victory of the rule of law in this country. This also a stern warning against those unscrupulous politicians who will resort to violence to gained elected position. The long arms of the law will eventually catch up on you,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde said they have submitted a letter to the Department of Justice for the issuance of an immigration lookout bulletin order for Baldo and the six other suspects.
Baldo has denied any involvement in the Batocabe murder.
In the House, two lawmakers urged the Justice Department to move swiftly against the mayor and to place him on the Bureau of Immigration’s hold departure list.
Also on Thursday, Batocabe’s son said his mother was open to the idea of replacing the slain lawmaker in next year’s race for the mayoralty.
“During the wake, during lighter days when friends would be there.. she would say, ‘Maybe... I’ll give it a shot.’ But then, that’s it. She was just open to thinking about it. This is really very traumatic for her,” Justin Batocabe told the ANC news channel.
“Right now there is a clamor from the people that of course being the widow, it’s my mother who should run. But as of the moment, she is just really grieving and very sad. So we’re thinking about it. We can substitute until the day of elections,” he added.
At the same time, the younger Batocabe said he did not think the communist New People’s Army was involved in his father’s assassination.
Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday congratulated the PNP for its swift action on the Batocabe murder.
“Let us all wish that the community can always aid and trust the PNP as they did in this case. Let us continue towards swift justice all throughout 2019 and onwards,” Gordon said. With Macon Ramos-AranetaREAD: Duterte vows to humiliate mayor who terrorized Batocabe’s widowREAD: Wet send-off: Batocabe laid to rest in hometown
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