HOUSE minority leader Bienvenido Abante yesterday filed a resolution urging an investigation against the PNP because of allegations that witnesses in the murder of former Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe did not receive the P35 million bounty from the Office of the President and the House of Representatives.
Abante filed House Resolution No. 384 “directing the appropriate committee to conduct an investigation in the exercise of its oversight function and in aid of legislation on the disbursement of the bounty intended for witnesses for the prosecution in relation to the murder of Hon. Rodel Batocabe.”
“Disturbing information have reached the undersigned that several witnesses have not received their share in the bounty and are now in fear for lack of financial capacity to secure themselves and their families against bodily harm,” he said.
Abante said witnesses have expressed their reluctance to testify for alleged failure to deliver the reward promised to them.
The lawmaker said the fund was earlier turned over to the PNP for “safekeeping and disbursement to qualified witnesses.”
The PNP yesterday said it will “cooperate and ready to face the probe” to be called by the House of Representatives.
PNP spokesman Bernard Banac said the reward money has been given to witnesses but cannot give details for security reasons.
“The PNP is willing to cooperate and ready to face probe to be conducted by any panel of the House to shed light on the reward money for witnesses in the Batocabe murder case.
Naibigay na sa mga (The money has been given to) concerned witnesses. But Details may not be disclosed for security reasons,” Banac said.
Ang Kalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts that will handle the inquiry, said he is hoping the fund did not go to the pocket of some unscrupulous police officials or individuals.
“Dun naman sa pondo e ‘huwag naman ma-ninja. Na nandyan talaga at nagagamit para sa kaso ni Batocabe (I’m hoping that the fund won’t be misused and that it is really being used in the Batocabe murder case),” he told reporters.
Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin has asked the PNP to explain before the House how the P35 million reward raised for the capture of the killers of Batocabe was disbursed.
He stressed that lawmakers, who contributed P13 million as part of the reward, want transparency and accountability from the PNP.
“We will wait for the PNP accounting on how they distributed it among the material witnesses to the Batocabe murder case. We wanted a fast resolution of this case,” Garbin said.
According to Garbin, a total of P20 million in reward came from President Duterte, while P2 million came from the provincial government of Albay.
Batocabe, a mayoral candidate in Daraga town in Albay, and his police escort, SPO1 Orlando Diaz, were shot and killed while they were leaving a gift-giving event in Barangay Burgos in Daraga on December 22, 2018.
Garbin said Branch 10 of the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City recently ordered the release on bail of former Daraga mayor Carlwin Baldo, the alleged mastermind.
Judge Maria Theresa Loquillano allowed Baldo to post bail of P6 million in cash or P8 million in surety or property bond for the two counts of murder filed against him.
The alleged gunman, Henry Yuson, surrendered earlier this year and identified Baldo as the one who ordered the hit on Batocabe. – with Raymond Africa