By Martin Sadongdong
One of two alleged hired gunmen and the driver of one of the get-away motorcycles used in the assassination of Ako Bicol Partylist Representative Rodel Batocabe surrendered to authorities, a ranking official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed Friday.
Chief Superintendent Amador Corpus, director of PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said Henry Yuson alias “Romel” and “Eno,” yielded to elements of the Philippine Army in Sorsogon late Thursday hours after PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde revealed that Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo was the pinpointed mastermind behind Batocabe’s killing.
Corpus said Yuson, the alleged main hitman, has already been turned over to the police and held under custody by the Albay Provincial Police Office and CIDG-Bicol.
During a press conference, Albayalde announed that Jaywin Babor alias “Jie,” an ex-Army man and one of the two drivers of the get-away motorcycles, surrendered to police in Taguig City early Friday.
“They were all saying the same thing: that Mayor Baldo failed to fulfil his promise of paying the complete amount after the assassination of Representative Batocabe,” Albayalde said.
Babor was immediately placed under police custody.
In a link diagram showing the list of seven suspects behind Batocabe’s killing, it was revealed that Yuson used a caliber .40 pistol in shooting Batocabe and his security escort, SPO2 Orlando Diaz, last December 22, 2018 in a gift-giving activity in Barangay Burgos, Daraga, Albay.
It was not clear how many times Yuson shot the congressman but police said at least 11 fired cartridge cases belonging to a caliber .40 pistol were found at the crime scene.
Albayalde earlier said Yuson was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has a standing warrant of arrest for rape without bail. After his surrender, the arrest warrant against him was served by the police.
He was arrested by elements of the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) of the 9th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army and later became a CAFGU member.
Police sources said Yuson surrendered because Mayor Baldo failed to give the succeeding payment for the completion of the assassination plot.
The plan to kill Batocabe was initially hatched sometime in August 2018 after the lawmaker announced in public his bid for the mayoralty post of Daraga town, Albayalde said. Baldo allegedly offered P5 million for the hit job.
The following month, Baldo allegedly gave the team P250,000 as an initial payment but the remaining balance was not delivered.
In a separate interview Friday, Albayalde said police are now hot on the trail of the three remaining at-large suspects.
They were identified as Rolando Arimado alias “RR,” a rebel-returnee who served as the backup gunman; Jaywin Babor alias “Jie,” an ex-Army man and one of the two drivers of the get-away motorcycles; and Danilo Muella alias “Manoy Dan,” reported to be a former technical sergeant in the 97th Military Intelligence Company of the 9th Infantry Division, Philippine Army who secured the guns used in the killing.
“Hinahanap pa po natin ‘yung ibang suspek dahil pito po silang na-file-an ng kaso including itong si Mayor Baldo (We’re still hunting down the other suspects because we filed charges against seven individuals including Mayor Baldo),” Albayalde said.
Meanwhile, Christopher Naval, a discharged Army soldier who is said to be an aide of Baldo and the one who formed the team, surrendered to police on December 30 while Emmanuel Rosello alias Buboy, another driver of the get-away vehicles, was arrested early Thursday, January 3, in Daraga, Albay.
The successful pursuit operations against Naval and Rosello were made following tips from Emmanuel Judavar alias “Jude,” a former associate of Baldo who came forward and identified all the suspects.
Albayalde said Judavar was initially included in the assassination plot but backed out on the day of the plan after Baldo refused to grant his plea.
Judavar was said to be requesting for an “advance payment” for his sick wife and child — a plea which fell on deaf ears.
Daraga Mayor Baldo earlier asserted his innocence and denied his involvement in the case, noting that he is only being used as a “convenient scapegoat.”
Cases for double murder and multiple frustrated homicide were filed in Albay against Mayor Baldo and the six other suspects.
“This case is already solved but definitely not closed,” Albayalde noted. He disclosed that a follow-up investigation is still on-going to determine if there are any higher officials other than Mayor Baldo who may be involved in Batocabe’s killing.
Meanwhile, all the firearms licenses and Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) of Mayor Baldo have already been revoked by Albayalde effective Thursday.
According to the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), Baldo owns a caliber .223 rifle, a caliber .22 gauge shotgun and two caliber .45 pistols.
Baldo was ordered to return the firearms to the PNP as soon as possible, Albayalde said.
Duterte warns Daraga mayor
President Duterte has warned the town mayor of Albay against threatening the family of slain Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe.
The President said he would slap the local official at the municipal hall if the wife or son of Batocabe continued to receive threats.
“Gaya nung pumunta ako ng Albay. Oo sinabi ko, “P***** i** mo, ‘pag merong isang…” Meron man talaga tatakbo, ‘yung relative, the wife, or the son. Do not — kasi ‘pag ginawa mo ‘yan, puntahan kita dito, p***** i** mo, sampalin kita diyan sa munisipyo mo [When I went to Albay, I said, ‘You son of a b*tch, if you…there will be someone who will run in his place, the relative, wife or the son. Do not — because if you do, I will go there and slap you at the municipal hall],” he said during his visit to Tagaytay City last Thursday.
“You want to try it? Sige. Bukas nandoon ako. ‘Pag hindi kita nilampaso diyan [you want to try it? Go ahead. I will be there tomorrow and see if I don’t mop the floor with you],” he added.
Duterte, who earlier condemned the murder of Batocabe, said he was willing to go to prison for his action. “I can take risk. I can go to prison. Walang problema ‘yan [There’s no problem with that],” he said, citing he once landed in jail when he was a teenager.
Duterte earlier visited Batocabe’s wake and raised the bounty for his killers to P50 million.
Salceda aware of plot
Meanwhile, Representative and former governor Joey Sarte-Salceda of Albay, reportedly the next target of the assassins who killed Batocabe, feared for his life since the day Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo assumed the town’s top post last May.
This was gathered as former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the Lower House in commending the Philippine National Police for solving the murder of Batcabe and his police escort SPO1 Orlando Diaz.
“The House of Representatives deeply appreciates the dedication and hard work our police force have put in to go after the perpetrators of the despicable act in such a short time,” Arroyo said in a press statement issued yesterday.
One of the suspects had reportedly revealed that Salceda was also a target of the politically motivated assassination plots.
Asked if he is aware of the alleged plan to kill him, Salceda said he has also “heard it too.”
The incumbent Albay lawmaker said he has taken a number of security precautions to dodge assassins bullets, including the changing of cars and the increase in his security details. (With reports from Genalyn Kabiling, Ben Rosario, Chito Chavez and Francis Wakefield)