THE Supreme Court has granted the request of the family of slain Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe for the transfer of the murder case against former Daraga, Albay town mayor Carlwyn Baldo to Manila from Legazpi City.
In a two-page resolution dated November 27 but released only yesterday, the SC’s 2nd Division directed the clerk of court of Branch 10 of the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court “to forward the entire record of the case” to the Office of the Executive Judge of the Manila RTC within three days from notice.
The tribunal also directed the executive judge “to raffle the case among the judges in the station and the judge to whom the case is assigned or raffled to, to hear and decide the case with utmost dispatch.”
Batocabe’s widow, Gertrudes and Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. asked the court for the transfer of the case for the “bias and partiality” of Branch 10 Judge Maria Theresa San Juan-Loquillano in favor of the accused.
The SC, in granting the motion to transfer, also cited the petitioners “fear for the safety of their family and witnesses especially because accused Baldo is already out on bail.”
They added that while there was no evidence that Baldo would threaten or have threatened them, and that the prosecution was also able to freely present its witnesses to the court, the fact remains that there is now apprehension or fear on their part regarding the case proceedings.
“Such fear could easily prevent them and their witnesses to freely testify of the trial of the case were to continue in the Legazpi City RTC, and this may eventually result in a miscarriage of justice, and considering further that the parties involved are influential politicians in the Bicol Region, and that to prevent any pressure, influence and appearance of partiality, the Court resolves to grant the petition,” the SC added.
Batocabe and his security escort, PO2 Rolando Diaz, were killed on Dec. 22, 2018 after a gift-giving event in a hinterland barangay in Daraga, Albay.
Baldo was indicted for two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder before the Legazpi City RTC connection with the killing of Batocabe and Diaz and the wounding of several bystanders.
Also indicted for the same offenses were Christopher Naval, Emmanuel Roselle Andes, Jaywin Babor, Henry Tyson, and Rolando Arimado.
The Department of Justice said another suspect, Danilo Muella, was indicted as an accomplice to the crime.
Baldo was tagged by the six suspects and a witness as the mastermind in the killings of Batocabe and Diaz.
Tyson, one of the alleged gunman, earlier said Baldo ordered him to kill Batocabe for P5 million, adding that the local chief executive along with Muella and Naval began planning the assassination in August last year.
Police arrested Baldo on January 22 while implementing a search warrant in his residence where they seized several unlicensed firearms.
Baldo denied any knowledge of the crime. He was later allowed to post P8.72 million as bail.