Ako Bicol Partlylist Representative Rodel Batocabe was attending a gift-giving activity in Barangay Burgos in Daraga, Albay on December 22, 2018 when he was shot dead along with his police escort, SPO2 Orlando Diaz. The incident also led to the wounding of seven bystanders. Six days later, the Philippine National Police (PNP) released facial composite sketches of the suspects. On January 3, 2019, after the bounty was raised to P50 million, the suspects surrendered and on the same day tagged incumbent Mayor Carlwyn Baldo as the killer.
If this is how fast and efficient the PNP works, how come in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs there is dismal performance in catching the big fishes? Isn’t the war on drugs the priority program of the president and that drugs can kill not only a Batocabe but also children who holds the key to the future?
While we commend the PNP for their unusual speed in catching the suspects and identifying the mastermind in the Batocabe murder case, we ask everyone, especially our law enforcers, to exercise caution and look at all angles even beyond the current evidences and testimonies of the suspects. Bicol Trending News, for instance, suggests looking into the following:
- The unusual speed of the PNP in responding to the issue. Could this be a cover-up for the agency’s inefficient performance on the administration’s program against illegal drugs? The President and the Congress has expressed their interest on the Batocabe murder case. Fast tracking the resolution of the slay case could be a “pa-pogi” that could somehow deflect the criticisms to the agency’s poor performance on the President’s pet program – the war on drugs.
- The credibility of the suspects tagging Daraga Mayor Baldo vis a vis the P50 million bounty. Note that one of the suspects was allegedly fired by the local chief executive for theft. Will that suspect still harbor good feelings to the mayor given the issue between them and that there is an irresistible offer where the probability of winning is thousand times higher than the mega-lotto?
- The internal dynamics among members of the Ako Bicol in the sharing of government projects, and in the division of perks. Allegedly, these dynamics even led to the fallout of some Ako Bicol members resulting to the organization of the Barangay Health Workers Partylist. In a situation where a pizza is limited, an elimination of one eater, especially the one who has access to a knife, means a lot.
- The possibility of hitting more birds with one stone by looking at the perspective of the widow, Gertie Batocabe. The late Congressman is an alleged womanizer and was even slapped with a sexual harassment case. If Gertie has plans to jump into politics, she could maximize the “widow card” and be Rodel’s substitute in the mayoralty race. The late Cory Aquino became president because of the death of Ninoy and Vice President Leni Robredo is now holding her post because of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo.
But more than these, it is also worth looking into the economic winners and losers in the slay case vis a vis the possible Daraga mayoralty election outcomes. First, Daraga has become an important economic hub and will perform a big role when the South Luzon International Airport becomes operational. Second, Daraga will also be the biggest beneficiary both economically and politically should Federalism push through. With Batocabe’s death, who would be the losers and winners?
It should be understood that Ako Bicol is a partylist organization not of marginalized sector but of businessmen – the Sunwest Group, to be specific – that tries to represent a regional ethno-cultural grouping. Because of the political power acquired by Ako Bicol, its businessmen-backers also consolidated their business interests and gained more economic power. The businessmen behind Ako Bicol would therefore benefit more with Batocabe winning the elections. Unless there is a rift (which we don’t know of) between Batocabe and these businessmen, the latter would want the former alive.
The losers, on the other hand, would be the businessmen competing with the backers of Ako Bicol. If Batocabe was not murdered and eventually won the elections, the more that these non-Ako Bicol aligned businessmen would lose economically and left isolated, or worse end up in bankrurptcy. To minimize further losses, eliminating Batocabe could be a more logical action. In the first place, who would be blamed but the Congressman’s closest contender – Baldo?
But who could these businessmen be? That is for the PNP to know but one way to understand this is to look into the alignments of provincial and municipal politicians. Got a clue, anyone?
Baldo is a businessman and a politician at the same time. As a businessman, he understands that less-risky but high-yielding options are the best to take. As a politician, he possibly understands that winning elections wrapped with questions of legitimacy may not be beneficial as all his actions will definitely be scrutinized and opposed despite good intentions. For that reason, Baldo waited for a long time despite being a perennial loser to the late Mayor Gerry Jaucian. Now that he is in control of the municipal government and its resources, will he waste his cards and the time he waited by ordering the assassination of his rival when the only strategies he need are communicating his governance platform and ensuring that his votes are counted?
Indeed, something is off unless he is “atat” of the mayoralty post that holds by succession right now, or that his strategist has lost grounding. This being so, then there is some sense to the claims of the PNP’s witnesses. But then again, is Baldo willing to take that risk since the murder case would just be a clear “pag-hayop sa lubang”?
Lastly, whether or not Baldo is the bad guy in this case, the public deserves to know through a thorough and honest-to-goodness investigation and not just a “pa-pogi” action. The public is the biggest loser because the taxpayers shoulder not only the salary of the PNP personnel investigating the case but also the P50 million bounty. Justice delayed may be justice denied but convicting an innocent, whoever he may be, is not solving the crime but just creating another injustice .