Batocabe family laments delay in case resolution
By Mar S. Arguelles
The family of the slain Ako Bicol Party List (AKB) Representative Rodel Batocabe observed on Wednesday, Dec. 22, the solon’s third death anniversary with a heavy heart as the wheel of justice was moving at a snail pace essentially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that affected the court hearings including the dilatory tactics employed by the defense counsels.
Lawyer Justin Batocabe, the eldest son of the slain lawmaker, said “the family is saddened by the fact that the case has not moved beyond preliminary procedure,” after the country was stricken by Covid-19 forcing the government to impose health community quarantines closing both public and private offices as a measure to curb the spread of the disease.
At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Manila, presided by Judge Jaime Santiago has conducted at least four hearings tackling only minor matters, Batocabe said.
Justin in a phone interview said, “it has been three years after our father’s death, but we are nowhere close to justice as our family grieves for the loss of our father, we are praying for the swift resolution of the case.”
He said as he is praying the fast solution of the case. He lamented the defense lawyers dilatory tactics and using either intimidation or enticements to the witnesses that earlier recanted their statements.
The mastermind, Carlwyn Baldo, was granted bail even though there was strong evidence as all the conspirators were his employees and all witnesses point to him as the brains of the heinous act.
“Every day as the case drags on, he grows more emboldened to intimidate our family and witnesses. Recently, several of his henchmen were arrested for carrying illegal firearms in a truck that had his name on the dashboard,” he said.
According to him the road to justice may be long but the fight for Cong. Rodel’s justice continues. We are grateful for all the friends and supporters for their prayers and help in our darkest hours.
Reports have it that several key witnesses against former Daraga Mayor Baldo, the alleged mastermind of the Batocabe murder, have retracted their earlier testimonies.
House inquiry on the Batocabe bounty:
The House Committee on Public Accounts has summoned former PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde to shed light on the status and answer issues surrounding the disbursement of the P35 million bounty that was raised by the President, the House of Representatives, and the province of Albay intended for the prosecution witnesses in relation to the Batocabe murder case.
The House of Representatives in 2019 has raised a P35 million bounty for the capture of the mastermind and killers of Batocabe.
The bounty raised includes P20 million from President Duterte, and P13 million from members of the 17th Congress and P2 million from the Albay provincial government.
The Batocabe case:
The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the transfer of the venue of the criminal cases filed against former Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo in connection with the death of AKB Rep. Batocabe and his security escort.
The request was made by Gertrudes Batocabe, the widow of the slain representative, and son Justin.
The high court ordered the Clerk of Court of the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10 to forward the records of the cases to the executive judge of the Manila RTC.
Gertrudes in an earlier interview said “We are thankful that the case has been transferred to Manila. No less than the Supreme Court has expressed its skepticism of obtaining justice in RTC Legazpi Branch 11.”
The Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has filed murder and multiple frustrated murders against Baldo for allegedly masterminding the killing of Batocabe and his security escort including six principal suspects who either surrendered or were arrested.
Baldo was allowed to post a PHP8.72 million bail.
To recall, Batocabe and his security aide were gunned down on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22, 2018, by still unidentified gunmen in Barangay Burgos a remote village in Daraga, Albay.
Batocabe, 52, and his security aide Senior Police Officer 1 Orlando Diaz sustained multiple gunshot wounds from various parts of his body, according to the police report.
Batocabe was attacked at around 3:00 PM while the victim was mingling with a group of senior citizens in a gift-giving event at the village covered basketball court in Barangay Burgos, a remote village some 5 kilometers away from the town proper.
The report said an unidentified gunman armed with a handgun approached Batocabe and in close range successively fired at him and his security escort.
Batocabe who was on his last term as AKB representative in the House of Congress was running for the mayoral post in Daraga town.