Philippines: Mayor Charged with Congressman’s Murder Surrenders

Richel V. Umel and Jeoffrey Maitem
Iligan and Cotabato, Philippines
190510-PH-killing-620.jpg Philippine troops at Camp Aguinaldo in suburban Quezon city stand at attention during a send-off ceremony for the May 13 midterm elections, May 7, 2019.

A town mayor suspected of involvement in the killing of a Philippine congressman last Christmas Eve in the eastern province of Albay surrendered to a local judge on Friday, police said.

Carlwyn Baldo, mayor of Daraga town in eastern Albay province, reported to Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) after it issued a warrant for his arrest. He faces charges tied to the killing of Rep. Rodel Batocabe who was gunned down along with his police escort while delivering gifts to elderly people.

Daraga police chief Rodelon Betita said Baldo, who is facing double murder and multiple attempted murder charges, was accompanied to court by his family and lawyer while six other suspects have been arrested and are in custody. Police filed charges against the seven suspects on Jan. 3.

Justin Batocabe, eldest son of the 52-year-old slain lawmaker, thanked authorities.

“We are very happy and grateful to the police, prosecutors and the RTC for their hard work in putting Mr. Baldo behind bars,” he said.

Baldo’s aide, identified by police as Christopher Cabrera, was arrested last year and told police that the mayor put up a 5 million peso fund (about U.S. $95,000) for the lawmaker’s assassination, according to police. The alleged plan involved former soldiers and paramilitary personnel employed by Baldo, who had denied the allegation.

While police did not comment on a political connection to the killing, Baldo’s surrender occurred just days before the May 13 general election when Filipinos will elect 12 senators, the entire 297-member House of Representatives and thousands of other local officials.

Political exercises in the Philippines normally are marred by violence, with the police last week saying that they were looking at 37 “gun-for-hire” groups scattered across the archipelago. These groups are separate from rebel and militant groups operating in the south.

Troops deployed

The military has deployed more than 40,000 troops nationwide to assist about 160,000 national police force members guarding polling precincts, including critical areas in the south where warring political warlords are a concern, according to officials.

So far, more than 20 election-related incidents have occurred, resulting in 10 deaths and 11 people injured.

On Thursday, unidentified assailants believed to be political rivals attacked and killed village councilor Feliciano Tobias, 58, in the northern province of Abra. His body was found slumped on a road near his motorcycle with multiple gunshot wounds.

The Commission on Elections placed Abra along with Mindanao, Jones town in Isabela province, and Lope de Vega town in Northern Samar province under “category red,” meaning more violence could occur as election day approaches.


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