The Supreme Court has granted the appeal of the family of slain Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe that the murder case against former Daraga, Albay town Mayor Carlwyn Baldo be transferred from Legazpi City to Manila.
In a two-page resolution dated Nov. 27 but only released Thursday, the SC’s 2nd Division ordered the Clerk of Court of Branch 10 of the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court “to forward the entire record of the case” to the Office of the Executive Judge of the Manila City RTC within three days from notice.
The high court also directed the Executive Judge of the Manila RTC after receipt of the records of the case ‘”to raffle the case among the judges in the station and the judge to whom the case are assigned or raffled, to hear and decide the case with utmost dispatch.”
Earlier, Batocabe’s widow, Gertrudes and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. asked the SC for a transfer of the case, citing the alleged partiality and bias of Branch 10 Judge Maria Theresa San Juan-Loquillano to the accused.
“The petitioner’s request for a transfer of venue is anchored on the alleged bias and partiality of Judge San Juan Loquillano towards accused Baldo, claiming that they cannot have a fair trial before the sala of Judge San Juan-Loquillano, and that they fear for the safety of their family and witnesses especially because accused Baldo is already out on bail,” the SC said, citing the reasons conveyed by Batocabe’s widow and Garbin.
While there was no evidence that Baldo would threaten or have threatened them, and that the prosecution was also able to freely present its witnesses to the court, the fact remains that there is now apprehension or fear on their part regarding the proceeding in the case, the tribunal said.
“Such fear could easily prevent them and their witnesses to freely testify if the trial of the case were to continue in the Legazpi City RTC, and this may eventually result in a miscarriage of justice, and considering further that the parties involved are influential politicians in the Bicol Region, and that to prevent any pressure, influence and appearance of partiality, the Court resolves to grant the petition,” the SC added.
Batocabe and his security escort, PO2 Rolando Diaz were killed after a gift-giving in a hinterland barangay in Daraga, Albay last Dec. 22, 2018.
Baldo was indicted for two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murders before the Legazpi City RTC connection with the killing of Batocabe and Diaz and the wounding of several bystanders.
Also indicted for the same offenses are Christopher Naval, Emmanuel Roselle Andes, Jaywin Babor, Henry Tyson and Rolando Arimado.
The Department of Justice said another suspect- Danilo Muella- was indicted as an accomplice to the crime.
Baldo was earlier tagged by the six suspects and a witness as the mastermind in the killings of Batocabe and Diaz.
Tyson, one of the alleged gunman, earlier said Baldo ordered him to kill Batocabe for P5 million, adding that the local chief executive along with Muella and Naval began planning the assassination in August last year.
Police arrested Baldo last January 22 while implementing a search warrant in his residence where they seized several unlicensed firearms.
Baldo denied any knowledge of the crime. He was later allowed to post P8.72 million as bail for his temporary liberty.