Disarm bodyguards of politicians – Ako Bicol
DARAGA, Albay — The party-list group Ako Bicol on Monday called on all politicians to disarm their bodyguards in the wake of the killing of Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his police escort.
At a press conference on the campus of Bicol University Daraga where the wake for Batocabe is being held, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said his party-list group hoped its slain member would be the last victim of politically motivated violence in Bicol.
Batocabe and his police aide, SPO1 Orlando Diaz, were gunned down by at least four men while leaving a Christmas event for senior citizens and people with disabilities in Daraga town, Albay province, on Saturday afternoon.
Garbin said even the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were calling for the disarming of groups linked to politicians.
“I hope this will be the last. Let us put an end to this. Let’s not allow the culture of impunity and killings to keep on happening,” he said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the organization of the country’s lawyers, has mounted a petition online urging the Supreme Court to conduct an independent investigation of the killings of lawyers under the Duterte administration and take steps for their protection.
Batocabe was a lawyer and a member of the bar.
“We join other sectors in condemning [Batocabe’s] daylight assassination even as we remain shocked by the audacity of the concerted action that can only find success in an environment that fosters impunity,” the IBP said on Sunday in a statement signed by its president, Abdiel Fajardo.
“We respectfully urge the Supreme Court through Chief Justice [Lucas Bersamin] to take immediate action to protect lawyers as they perform their function to protect their clients’ rights and uphold the rule of law,” the group said.
The IBP asked the Supreme Court to ensure a “thorough, prompt, impartial and independent investigation [of] all the killings of lawyers” since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30, 2016.
It also asked the high court to call to a dialogue the police, military, and other concerned agencies and civil society groups for a discussion of security for lawyers.
Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said on Monday that he was amenable to the proposal.
“The Chief Justice will seek the concurrence of the court in conducting an independent investigation and convening a dialogue between the members of the bar and the law enforcers,” Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez said in a statement.
Marquez said Bersamin “joins the IBP in condemning in the strongest possible terms the recent spate of killings of lawyers including judges, and calls on the concerned authorities to put an immediate stop to these senseless acts of violence within the bounds of the law, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The IBP said that a day before Batocabe’s murder, lawyer Erfe del Castillo survived an ambush in Talisay, Negros Occidental province.
It said that last month, lawyer Benjamin Ramos, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Negros Occidental, was shot dead by two men in Kabankalan City.
Before the attack, Ramos had received death threats for assisting the families of nine farmers who were slain in a sugar plantation in Sagay, in the same province, earlier, the group said.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who serves on the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, on Monday urged law enforcement agencies to find Batocabe’s killers.
“Congressman Batocabe is a big loss to the electoral tribunal. We are outraged at his senseless killing,” Peralta said in a statement.
“Those responsible should be apprehended at the soonest possible time to show to the public that crime never pays and to deter those thinking of sowing violence from proceeding with their sinister plans, especially during this time when elections are fast approaching,” he added.
Former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go also called on the authorities to resolve quickly the killing of Batocabe.
In a statement issued on Monday, Go also urged the public to cooperate by giving information to the investigators.
He also extended his condolences to the family of Batocabe, whom he called “a friend.”
Sen. Richard Gordon called on the public to cooperate with the authorities to resolve crimes and put an end to the culture of violence in the country.
“With the level of technology we have today, with the number of CCTV and mobile phone cameras around, dedicated and systematic police work can result in the identification and arrest of the perpetrators of these acts of violence,” Gordon said in a statement on Monday.
“However, it is not only police work that is important,” he said. “[W]hat is also essential is the participation of the people by providing statements on what they may have witnessed, including providing sworn testimonies to ensure that the perpetrators are appropriately punished.”
Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde has sacked Senior Supt. Milo Pagtalunan, the police director for Albay; Chief Supt. Benito Dipad, the Daraga police chief; and Supt. Charlotte Peñalosa, chief of the Police Security and Protection Group in Bicol, after the slaying of Batocabe.
Albayalde said on Monday that the three police officials were relieved to clear the way for an impartial investigation of the crime and determine “if they committed lapses.”
The PNP chief said Peñalosa was being investigated because of information that she wanted to relieve Batocabe’s security detail days before the congressman was slain.
In Daraga, Garbin said Ako Bicol would not allow Batocabe’s death “to become another unsolved case.”
“That is why we have put up a sizable amount of bounty,” Garbin said, referring to the P30 million that the House was raising for information that may lead to the arrest of Batocabe’s killers.
Garbin said on Sunday that the amount could reach P50 million, as the group expected more contributions from lawmakers and officials.
The National Bureau of Investigation said on Sunday that the attack on Batocabe was politically motivated and requested the Commission on Elections to put Daraga under its control.
At Monday’s press conference, Batocabe’s son, Justin, appealed to the public to help solve the crime by giving information to the investigators.
The Bicol police had formed a special investigation group to solve the case.
Supt. Dennis Balla, acting chief of the Daraga police, said the investigators had taken statements from other victims of the attack and the driver of Batocabe. — Reports from Michael Jaucian, Stephanie Florida, Ma. April Mier, Mar S. Arguelles, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Faye Orellana, Leila B. Salaverria and Jeannette I. Andrade
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