By CHARISSA LUCI-ATIENZA and AARON RECUENCO
Seeking immediate justice for the death of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, lawmakers yesterday put up reward money for the arrest of the killers which is expected to reach P25 to P30 million.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin disclosed that at least P25 million has been raised to effect the arrest of Batocabe’s killers.
“Initially we have gathered around P25 million to put up a bounty and help identify the mastermind/masterminds immediately. In fact, it could reach P30-million,” he said.
Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, president of the House Visayan
Bloc who initiated the bounty drive, said a 168 congressmen have committed to give P30,000 each, apart from P15 million pledged by Ako Bicol party-list group and P2 million committed by the Albay provincial government.
“Puwedeng umabot ng P25 million kasi may commitment ang Ako Bicol na P15 million, P2 million sa provincial government ng Albay at sa House na at least 30, 000 each of over 100 congressmen and counting,” he said.
“I see no reason why somebody would even want to hurt Rodel except those who are willing to do anything and everything to stop him from giving the people of Bicol the kind of public service that they deserve. Takot sila sa pagbabago. Ayaw nilang matalo,” Benitez said.
He said they will be vigilant and will make sure that the investigation on the case would be impartial.
NBI to aid in probe
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday to assist the police in the probe of the killing last Saturday of Ako Bicol party-List Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security escort SPO1 Orlando Diaz.
Secretary Guevarra said “initial investigation by NBI agents suggests that the attack was likely politically motivated.”
“A thorough inspection of the crime scene will be conducted soon in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP),” he said.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has ordered the creation of a special investigation task group to investigate the killing of Batocabe and his police escort.
“I have directed the creation of a Special Investigation Task Group to mobilize all available resources and to orchestrate all aspects of investigation to ensure that justice is served as soon as possible to both the victims and their families,” he added.
The special probe body, according to Albayalde, will exert all efforts to identify the perpetrators, including the possible mastermind who may have ordered the hit on Batocabe.
Batocabe was on a gift-giving activity for senior citizens and Person With Disability in Daraga town of Albay where he is running for mayor when unidentified gunmen shot him and his police escort dead.
The gunmen fled after the incident and the local police are now seeking the assistance of those who witnessed the shooting.
Albayalde said the identification of the gunmen is crucial in the solution of the case, adding that the facial recognition of some of the witnesses is a big help in running after them.
“We appeal to the public to immediately report to the police any information that could lead us to the perpetrators and to help us quickly solve this case,” said Albayalde.
Police investigation disclosed that Batocabe suffered eight bullet wounds on the body.
His police escort, on the other hand, was hit six times, including two in the head and one on the chest.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who visited the wake of Batocabe at the Ricardo Arcilla Hall in Daraga, Albay, yesterday morning expressed hope that Batocabe’s killers will immediately be put behind bars.
“I condemn what has happened. Life has become so cheap. That should not be so. Nothing can justify that gruesome murder. So I hope our authorities could conduct a thorough and speedy investigation,” she said.
Citing that “enforcement is the best deterrent,” she noted that about 150 congressmen have already committed to put up a fund to get the killers. “That really is the best way to get the killers,” Arroyo said.
The former President said Batocabe “was really very popular” and “very much loved” in Congress.
“He is very much loved in Congress both by the congressmen and non-congressmen. Maybe your colleagues in media will tell you that he is popular with the media. They often got him as ninong in the baptism or whatever religious celebrations they had. He was really very popular,” Arroyo said.
She said Batocabe, president of the 46-strong Party-list Coalition, is “definitely a big loss” to the Lower Chamber.
“He was very, very active in the hearings. Very tough interrogator and also a very tough debater. So he certainly did his part,” she said.
In a statement of House members on Batocabe’s assasination, they called on all law enforcement agencies to concentrate on bringing the perpetrators of this dastardly act to the bar of justice.
“Truly, we legislators are not exempt from injustice and violence and we urge the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be on their toes not only in maintaining peace but in protecting all citizens from criminal elements,” they said.
They described Batocabe’s murder as an “assault” to the House of Representatives as an institution.
“What happened to Rep. Batocabe is an assault on the institution and we refuse to take this crime lightly,” they said.
“We express our outrage not only in behalf of the family of Rep. Batocabe but also in the name of all citizens who are victims of heinous crimes. As elected representatives of our respective districts, we demand that our law enforcement agencies to double their efforts in preserving peace and bringing those who are guilty of heinous crimes to justice,” they said.
Vice President Leni Robredo said the brazen crime committed against Batocabe, her former colleague in the 16th Congress, must “not be the new normal.”
“Beyond my personal grief at his passing, is the growing rage at yet another brazen murder, committed in broad daylight, in the middle of a crowd,” said Robredo, a former Camarines Sur representative.
“This cannot, and must not be the new normal; when Filipinos, young and old, rich and poor, are gunned down in cold blood as a matter of course, and where none of us can feel safe,” she added.
Sen. Richard Gordon on Sunday said the assassination of Batocabe is a “loss to the country” and an indication of moral decay as it indicates the presence of negative elements that believe a culture of violence is the only way to change.
Gordon also lamented that Batocabe’s assassination shows there are people who think that violence and bloodshed “are substitutes for dialogue and clean, honest, and peaceful elections.”
Gordon said it behooves upon local authorities and the people themselves to work together to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
Batocabe’s remains lie in state at the Arcilla Hall, Bicol University, Daraga, Albay. The viewing started yesterday at 2 p.m.
His interment will be on December 31, 2018, in Daraga, Albay.
A memorial service for Batocabe will be held at the House of Representatives on January 14, 2019.
He is survived by his wife Girlie and two sons, Jhustine and Khiel. (With reports from Rey Panaligan, Raymund Antonio, and Hannah Torregoza.)