MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The Philippine National Police (PNP) has tagged Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo as the mastermind behind the slay of Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe.
In a press conference, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Baldo contracted 7 people to assassinate Batocabe for P5 million.
"Lumalabas dito na si Mayor ang nagbayad sa kanila [other suspects],"
(It appears that the mayor paid them [other suspects].)
Albayalde identified the hired gunmen, allegedly former rebels and military officials, as Henry Yuson alias Romel or Eno, Rolando Arimando alias RR, Emmanuel Rosello alias Boboy, Jaywin Babor alias Jie, Christopher Naval alias Tuping, Danilo Muella alias Manoy Dan, and Emmanuel Judavar alias Jude.
Charges of double murder have been filed against Baldo and the other suspects, Albayalde added.
Following the development, Albayalde said police now consider Batocabe's case to be "solved but not yet closed" since not all suspects have been arrested.
"We will do everything to arrest the suspects," he said.
Sought for comment, Baldo said he would first consult his legal team.
Batocabe was planning to challenge reelectionist Baldo for the Daraga mayoralty in the midterm elections in May.
The lawmaker, 52, was distributing Christmas gifts in his hometown in Daraga, Albay on Dec. 22 when he and his police escort were gunned down by at least 6 assailants.
A P50-million reward raised by President Rodrigo Duterte and Batocabe's colleagues in Congress will be given to those who would provide information that would lead to the perpetrators.
Justin Batocabe, son of the slain lawmaker, expressed gratitude for the resolution of the case and said the family has yet to decide who would take his father's place in the mayoral bid.
Asked if the identification of the alleged slay mastermind might help the family amid its grief, the younger Batocabe said at the presser: "I think it helps us psychologically, but to accept that killing someone for money, for a political position, that is something we cannot accept."
In an earlier interview on ANC's Headstart, Justin Batocabe said their family would stay in politics, seeing it as the "best way to get back" at his father's killers.
Batocabe's widow, Gertie, is "open to thinking about" running for mayor in Daraga town, in place of her husband.
"It’s to show them that despite this, we are strong and we are still ready to serve, we will give everything that we have for the people," Justin Batocabe told ANC's Headstart on Thursday.
- with reports from Raffy Santos and Thea Omelan, ABS-CBN News