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Cops eye link of Masbate politician to solon’s slay

The investigation of the murder of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe remains open, as the Philippine National Police continues to consider other suspects aside from the detained six-member hit squad and suspected mastermind, Mayor Carlwyn Baldo of Daraga, Albay province.

In a press conference on Tuesday in Camp Crame, Quezon City, PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde confirmed that part of the investigation was on the involvement of a politician in Masbate province who allegedly sheltered at least two suspects after Batocabe’s murder in Daraga, Albay province, on Dec. 22.

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Asked who the politician was, Albayalde said: “We can’t say yet, but it was said the Uzi (submachine gun) of one of the suspects was even taken [by the politician].”

On Monday, when asked if the police were still considering other suspects or angles in the murder, Albayalde said that “we are not closing the investigation.”

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“We are looking at why two of the suspects were in Masbate, and who took them in there,” he said.

One of the suspects, the alleged backup gunman, Rolando Arimado, had surrendered in Masbate last week, assisted by his wife and son.

In the same press conference on Tuesday, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director, Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, said statements of the suspects were still being collated to pursue other possible conspirators.

“We are looking for others involved in this plan,” Corpus said.

He said there was another suspect, a financier, who fetched the other suspects in Camalig town after the hit squad escaped from the crime scene at Barangay Burgos in Daraga.

Conspirators

He said the police were also looking for another gun-for-hire group in Bicol, the Concepcion group.

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One of the primary conspirators in the Batocabe murder, Christopher Naval, had said he had tapped the group initially to carry out the assassination for a P1.5 million to P3 million contract allegedly offered by Baldo.

The initial payment was for P150,000, but the group did not deliver, so Naval’s team ended up carrying out the kill, Naval had said.

“But the thing is everybody is pointing to the mayor [Baldo] and the mayor probably knows something more so we can’t say this is ‘case closed,’” Albayalde said, adding it was also possible there could be other masterminds than Baldo.

Baldo earlied denied involvement in the murder, saying he was being used as “a convenient scapegoat.”

Police control

On Tuesday, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) stripped Baldo of his control over the Daraga police, citing three of four grounds for the withdrawal of the Napolcom deputation of local chief executives.

These grounds are abuse of authority, providing material support to criminals, and engaging in acts inimical to national security or which negate the effectiveness of the peace and order campaign.

“[Mayor] Baldo committed abuse of authority for the employment of confidential staff under fictitious names which is a blatant disregard of existing rules and regulations,” the Napolcom said in a statement.

“The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) therefore reiterates its warning against all politicians not to intimidate, harass, or do violence against their political opponents in the forthcoming elections otherwise they will face the full force of the law,” Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, DILG spokesperson, said in a statement.

Reward

Albayalde said the PNP would recommend that its key witness, Baldo’s former employee, Emmanuel Judavar, who had claimed he was part of the planning of Batocabe’s assassination but not the execution, receive some portion of the P50-million reward for the identification of the suspects.

“I’m not sure if he will get the full reward—that’s too big an amount—but he will receive a reward. It was from [his information] that everything started,” Albayalde said.

In another case development, Albayalde also announced on Monday that the licensed firearm of the suspected primary gunman in the Batocabe murder, Henry Yuson, matched the 11 shells and five slugs from a .40-caliber gun recovered from the crime scene.

Albayalde said the match was a positive development that would “boost our case,” especially since the gun used in the shooting had yet to be recovered.

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