NPA denies hand in Bicol solon’s slay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 25) – The New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday denied any involvement in the killing of AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, belied the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s speculation that Batocabe was killed for refusing to give money to members of the NPA extorting from him.

“Walang katotohanan ang mga pahayag ng PNP na nag-uugnay sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa insidente. Walang kinalaman ang anumang yunit ng NPA sa Kabikulan sa naturang pamamaslang,” the rebels said in a statement released by the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Bicol, which represents rebels in peace talks with the government.

[Translation: “There is no truth to the PNP’s statement linking the revolutionary movement to the incident. Any unit of the NPA in the Bicol region has no involvement in the killing.”]

Batocabe was shot by unknown gunmen during a gift-giving event for senior citizens and persons with disabilities in Daraga, Albay on December 22. His security aide, Orlando Diaz, was also shot dead. The PNP said the murder could also be politically-motivated since Batocabe was running for Daraga mayor in the 2019 elections.

NDF-Bicol condemned the killing and expressed its condolences to the families of Batocabe and Diaz.

It further explained that the armed rebels have no reason to kill Batocabe because he is not considered as a “persona non grata” of the revolutionary movement.

The group said it was supposed to meet with Batocabe regarding his candidacy after Christmas, saying it was willing to talk to the lawmaker because of his vote against President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in July 2017. This was the first of three requests which were all granted by Congress. Martial law stays in Mindanao ‪until December 31, 2019‬, despite allegations of human rights violations committed by the military – which the Duterte administration has denied.

NDF-Bicol alleged that Batocabe’s slay is part of a series of "high-profile killings" planned by the Duterte government to justify the declaration of martial law nationwide. Malacañang has repeatedly said Duterte has no plans of placing the entire country under military rule.

Meanwhile, the PNP has relieved the provincial police chief of Albay and the regional director of the Police Security and Protection Group while authorities are investigating the Batocabe case.

Lawmakers had put up at least ₱30 million as a reward for information leading to the capture of the Batocabe's killers.