Gertrudes Batocabe never wanted to enter the Philippines’ cutthroat politics, but after her husband was shot dead, allegedly by a rival in next week’s midterm election, she felt bound to take his place.
“It’s not really automatic that the wife takes over, but in this case, I cannot see my opponents sitting down (quitting)” she told Agence France Presse, holding back tears.
“I have a lot of things to do for Rodel, for the people of Daraga,” she said, referring to her husband and the central city where she is running for mayor.
The incumbent mayor of Daraga is charged with orchestrating the killing, leaving Batocabe acutely aware of the risks she faces in running.
“I’m careful, is the word, but I’ve been given so much protection by the president,” she said, referring to armed security detail.
Daraga Vice Mayor Victor Perete assumed on Friday the mayoral post based on the order of the Department of the Interior and Local Government designating him as acting town mayor following the detention of Mayor Carlwyn Baldo, the suspected mastermind in the killing of Rodel Batocabe.
Baldo, accused of double murder and six counts of attempted murder, is being detained at the Legazpi City jail. He has been tagged by the police as the alleged mastermind in the assassination of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security escort in December 2018.
The order, signed on Friday by DILG 5 Director Anthony Nuyda, said that after deliberation of the joint committee task force of the Commission on Elections and the DILG, it found no impediment to
implement the rule on succession under the provision of the Local Government Code.
“In view of the detention of Baldo and rendering him temporarily incapacitated to perform his duties, Perete being the vice mayor and upon receipt of this memorandum order may already assume as acting mayor of the town in accordance with Section 46 of RA [Republic Act] 7160.”
In compliance with the DILG order, Perete also issued a memorandum before the closing of office hours, informing Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, members of the municipal council, and department heads of the town, that he is assuming as acting mayor of Daraga effective May 10.
Perete and Gertie Batocabe are both contesting the mayoral post of Baldo, who is also running for reelection.
Some of Asia’s most powerful political families have been marked by the same phenomenon. India’s Sonia Gandhi was pushed into politics after her husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
Benazir Bhutto led Pakistan’s return to democracy about a decade after her father was ousted as prime minister in a coup and subsequently executed.
Political analyst Franco said the rise of the Philippine widows also marks a way into the nation’s male-dominated political area.
“Many of our female politicians, especially at the local level, are members of political dynasties,” she added.
Before Rodel’s murder, the plan was for the Batocabes to groom their first-born son, a newly minted lawyer, to follow his father’s footsteps into politics.
But that changed after Rodel, who was an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, was gunned down days before Christmas while handing out gifts to elderly and disabled Daraga residents.