Police said Wednesday they have identified six persons of interest in the assassination of Ako Bikol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his police escort, SPO1 Orlando Diaz, who were gunned down in broad daylight on Saturday in the town of Daraga, Albay.
In a press conference in Legazpi City, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said some of the names were aliases, and could not be divulged to the public as yet.
Albayalde said there was not enough evidence to tie the murders to Batocabe’s political rival in the mayoral contest next year.
He also said they were not discounting the possible involvement of the communist New People’s Army.
READ: Cops claim break in Batocabe slay
“In politics, you always point to the opponent, right? But we, the PNP cannot speculate. We cannot speculate because we cannot link this person yet because of lack of substantial evidence,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde said despite the P32 million being offered for information leading to an arrest, witnesses were afraid to come forward to testify.
“It seems that the people are afraid to come forward and I don’t know why. Even the barangay chairman said he knew nothing,” Albayalde said.
“What we were able to establish is that the assailants came from the back,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “That means they came from the crowd. There’s a big possibility that people in the crowd knew or recognized the assailants but so far, nobody wants to talk.”
He said the police have collected the testimony from six people who were wounded in the attack.
Batocabe, who is running for mayor in his hometown of Daraga, Albay next year, was killed while leaving a gift-giving event for senior citizens Saturday.
READ: Daraga mayor rejects politics in solon’s slay
Albayalde said Wednesday the congressman did not coordinate with the PNP for his visit, as he did in previous events.
Batocabe’s wife Gertie said on social media that her husband might have been killed over politics, while Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said there were threats to the congressman’s life after he filed a certificate of candidacy for mayor in October.
Garbin Jr. on Wednesday urged the PNP not to let Batocabe’s murder join the growing list of unsolved crimes as he took the police to task for failing to update the family on the case.
He also proposed that the police disarm politicians’ bodyguards.
Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin supported Garbin’s call.
“It’s high time that we make politics an art of governance, of reasoned discourse not as a showcase for brute power and a bully pulpit,” Villarin said.
“Armed bodyguards project an image of confrontation not discourse,” he said. “Political differences should be settled through debate and dialogue not a display of violence.”
But Magdalo Party-list Rep.Gary Alejano, a former Marine officer, rejected Garbin’s suggestion.
Disarming private bodyguards would expose politicians to harm, he said.
What the police should do is to disband private armies, impose strict gun control and improve law enforcement to make the conviction a certainty, he said.
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