MANILA (7th UPDATE)—A party-list lawmaker was shot dead Saturday afternoon while giving out gifts as part of a Christmas event in Daraga town, Albay, an incident that has drawn widespread anger from various government officials.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security escort, SPO2 Orlando Diaz, were killed by still unidentified assailants in an attack that happened past 3 p.m. Batocabe was 52.
Batocabe was about to ride his vehicle when 4 armed men on motorcycles fired shots at him near the Burgos Elementary School.
The body of SPO2 Orlando Diaz being handled at hospital. ABS-CBN News
The scene where Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his security escort, SPO2 Orlando Diaz, were killed in Daraga, Albay. Screengrab
Both victims were rushed to a hospital in Legazpi City, where they were declared dead on arrival.
The motive was not immediately clear, but authorities said they were looking into whether the killing was politically motivated.
Regional police official Arnel Escobel told Agence France-Presse that Batocabe, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, had recently voiced concern that rivals in the local mayoral race were using armed groups to influence the vote.
According fellow Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Batocabe received death threats but did not acknowledge these because he had no known political enemies.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement: "Proper authorities are now investigating this brazen murder as we vow to leave no stone unturned in bringing the perpetrators of this felonious act to justice."
Vice-President Leni Robredo extended her sympathies to the family of Batocabe, "a fellow Bicolano, my batchmate in UP Diliman, and a colleague in the 16th Congress."
"He was smart and eloquent, witty and cheerful, a person who lived life to the fullest. He will be missed, both for his service and his friendship," Robredo said in a statement.
The Vice President called for an end to the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.
"But beyond my personal grief at his passing, is the growing rage at yet another brazen murder, committed in broad daylight, in the middle of a crowd," she said.
"This cannot, and must not be the new normal; when Filipinos, young and old, rich and poor, are gunned down in cold blood as a matter of course, and where none of us can feel safe."
A special task force has been formed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the case, its chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said.
"I have directed the creation of a Special Investigation Task Group to mobilize all available resources and to orchestrate all aspects of investigation to ensure that justice is served as soon as possible to both the victims and their families," Albayalde said in a statement.
Albayalde also appealed to the public to report any information that could lead authorities to the perpetrators.
Who was Rodel Batocabe?
As a lawmaker, Batocabe was a member of several House panels such as the committees on dangerous drugs, energy, health, tourism, and good government and public accountability among others.
He became part of Minority Leader Danilo Suarez’s bloc after the ouster of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as House Speaker.
Batocabe once proposed to impose a so-called "vanity tax," or taxes on beauty products in place of fuel excise tax, which he said would unnecessarily burden the poor.
He later withdrew the proposal after receiving criticism from various groups.
Despite being an administration ally, Batocabe told the Marcos family that burying former President Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani would not guarantee that either the late strongman or the country will be at peace.
Batocabe was a lawyer by profession, having graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
The UP Law Class of 1990, in a statement, condemned Batocabe's murder and urged authorities to take swift action.
"Our hearts go out to their families at this very difficult time. We ask for your prayers even as we vow to seek justice for those responsible for this dastardly acts," the organization said.
"We mourn the tragic loss of a passionate lawyer, a conscientious legislator, a dedicated public servant, a devoted husband and father, and a loyal classmate and friend."
Batocabe, in his last term as a lawmaker, was supposed to run for mayor in Daraga in the midterm elections.
His colleagues in Congress condemned his slay and called for immediate justice.
Batocabe is survived by his wife and two children.
His killing was among three slays of politicians recorded on Saturday.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse