Batocabe killers benefitted from P35M bounty?

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    THE assassins of Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe appear to have benefitted from the P35 million bounty jointly raised by Malacañang and the House of Representatives to ensure the immediate arrest of the suspects.

    Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts which is investigating how the P35 million bounty was spent, said there is word going around that the suspects got part of the reward when they pointed at former Daraga Mayor Carlwin Baldo as the alleged mastermind.

    “One of the topics of the debates and discussions was why were those involved, the killers themselves, received reward money?” Defensor said. “Of course, it’s painful for the family because those who were involved in the murder benefited from the reward.”

    Lawyer Justin Batocabe, the late congressman’s son, lamented that three major witnesses in the killing have recanted their sworn affidavits against Baldo.

    “Upon threats and offers of more money and lawyer, they flip-flopped and sided with Mr. Baldo,” Batocabe told the panel’s hearing. “All those who gave their sworn statements implicating Mayor Baldo also recanted.”

    Batocabe asked the PNP to monitor the witnesses to avoid the recantations of their testimonies.

    “In my view, there should be some focus on those witnesses that’s why they were allowed to flip-flop,” Batocabe said.

    The alleged gunman, Henry Yuson, surrendered earlier this year and identified Baldo as having ordered the hit on the former lawmaker, who had bared plans to run for mayor of Daraga.

    Defensor slammed the reported flip-flopping of three of the primary witnesses, including a certain Chris Naval who was the supposed leader of Batocabe’s assassin.

    Naval, a former close aide of Baldo, has identified his former boss as the primary mastermind in the murder case.

    “Something might have happened again. They (witnesses) were among those who killed (Batocabe) and they were able to dupe the government and now they are getting priced by the other side (Baldo),” said Defensor.

    Defensor said the reward money given to the three witnesses should be recalled and they should be investigated for flip-flopping.

    In the same hearing, congressmen were able to ascertain that there was no missing reward money given to those who helped expedite the arrest of suspects.

    “The P35 million was all accounted for,” Defensor said after Brig. General Joel Napoleon Coronel, acting director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, explained the breakdown of the reward money.

    Of the P35 million, P13 million came from lawmakers, P20 million from President Duterte, while the P2 million came from the provincial government of Albay.