MANILA - Colleagues and friends of the late Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe held a memorial service for their fallen colleague at the House of Representatives Monday.
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo led congressmen in the service,which started with a Holy Mass. In attendance was Batocabe’s family led by his wife Gerty.
Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin’s impassioned speech drew attention during the service. Garin and Batocabe were both members of the 49-man party-list coalition.
"For me he was not just a colleague. He was my friend. A friend who taught me to wear the badge of being a party-list representative with pride, dignity and honor. A friend whose vision on how to steer the party-list coalition towards an elevated level I fully supported. A friend who has been encouraging, brutally honest, supportive and who has often also tested my patience and sanity more times than my own family," she said.
"He was my friend and he was a great legislator and he could have been an even greater mayor of the town of Daraga. He was on his way to greater things and it is the greatest injustice for the people of Daraga and for Ako Bicol Party-list to be deprived of Rodel Batocabe’s brand of public service," Garin added.
Garin urged her colleagues to follow and finish what Batocabe started, saying it would be justice for the late lawmaker.
"It is sad that towards the last months of the 17th Congress, the members of the House of Represnetatives have to say our last adieu to our colleague Cong. Rodel Batocabe especially under such tragic and despicable circumstances," Arroyo said.
She called Batocabe "the Darageno who dared."
"He dared confront the evil in Daraga at the cost of his life," she said.
Arroyo recalled that her last conversation with Batocabe was during his work at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. Batocabe has a legacy of 34 national laws.
She said Batocabe has 40 other national bills left pending. She urged her colleagues to expedite the passage of the bills.
The Speaker also called for the prosecution of the mastermind of the killing.
Earlier, John Reyes, a dear friend of Batocabe, remembered their school days in the University of the Philippines.
“Rodel found humor in everything," he said.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, for his part, referred to Batocabe as a good man and a faithful public servant. "The good die young, indeed," he said.
Mendoza recalled Batocabe was his student in political law review.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez recalled fond memories of working with Batocabe.
"The work of Rodel during his 9 years in Congress is a living testament of his dedication to public service," Suarez said.
After the speeches, the Batocabe’s son Justin delivered a response on behalf of their family.
“Your words of empathy, love and encouragement fill us with hope to endure the long night and meet each new day with heads held up high.” He added that his father was the “best mayor of Daraga that we never had."
The Batocabes were then given legislative memorabilia by the House of Representatives.
Batocabe was shot dead December 22, 2018. The assailants have been arrested and the Philippine National Police Police earlier tagged Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo as the "mastermind" behind the crime but he has denied the allegation.
Batocabe was running for mayor of Daraga in the 2019 midterm elections.
In a press conference, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Baldo contracted 7 people to assassinate Batocabe for P5 million.
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.