MANILA - Investigators are looking at the possible link of politics and communist activity in the murder of AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe over the weekend, police said Monday.
Batocabe, 52, was distributing Christmas gifts in his hometown in Daraga, Albay when he and his police escort were gunned down by at least 6 assailants.
The lawmaker succumbed to 8 gunshot wounds from .40 and .45 caliber firearms, and the assailants walked away from the crime scene by mixing in with the crowd, said Chief Supt. Arnel Escobal, Bicol police chief.
The assassination, he said, bears a similarity with earlier killings perpetrated by a gun-for-hire group, whose patrons include some "unscrupulous politicians."
Batocabe, elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, was eyeing the mayoral seat of Daraga in May's midterm elections. He recently voiced concern that rivals in the local race were using armed groups to influence the vote, Escobal said.
Investigators are, meanwhile, not discounting the angle that Batocabe's killing may be linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), he said.
"Iyung pinangyarihan po na lugar is highly influenced ng mga CPP-NPA, itong tinatawag nating communist-terrorist group," he said.
(The area where the crime occurred is highly influenced by the CPP-NPA, which we deem as a communist-terrorist group.)
Police identified 6 persons of interest in Batocabe's killing after getting statements from 6 witnesses, said Bicol police director Chief Supt. Arnel Escobal, who heads the task force investigating the slay.
Authorities are also checking if the gunmen were captured on the surveillance camera of an inn near the crime scene, police said.
Lawmakers and the local government have raised at least P30 million for information that would lead to the killers' capture.