Family, supporters begin prayer vigil for Mayor Carlwyn Baldo

ALBAY, Philippines – Friends and supporters joined the family of embattled Daraga town Mayor Carlwyn “Awin” Baldo for the first of a 9-day prayer vigil for the embattled local chief who had been accused as the mastermind behind the killing of AKO Bicol representative Rodel Batocabe.

Danny “Klang” Arespe, a Dubai-based fashion designer, returned to the country to help organize the prayer vigil at the Daraga covered court which began on Tuesday night, January 15, to help uncover the "real mastermind" in the killing of Batocabe. 

“We organized this prayer vigil for Mayor Awin Baldo to show our moral and strong support to him and his family.... [He was] wrongly charged of double murder and implicated in the killing of Cong Rodel Batocabe....  We’re praying that the real mastermind of the crime will be held liable,” said Arespe, a close friend of Baldo’s late brother Ares.

Arespe said Batocabe's colleague in AKO Bicol party list, Representative Alfredo "Pido" Garbin, could attest to the character of Baldo as he is a friend of the Baldo family.

The mayor's mother, Gloria, also said Garbin knew that she raised her children well, especially Baldo.

“My son is innocent and incapable of doing bad things. My children’s dream is to serve the people the way we taught them,” she said in an interview.

Gloria, 74, was a public school teacher before she became a handicraft exporter in Daraga. She said that she inculcated in her children the value of hard work and "giving back" to people by serving them well.

"I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t know why. Hindi ko alam ho. Kaya kami nananalig lang kami sa Panginoon, sa tulong niya, sa awa niya kami nanalig sa kanya na sana po malampasan ang problemang ito ng aming pamilya (I don't know. That's why we're relying on God's help, his mercy, that our family would overcome this problem)," she said.

'Innocent until proven guilty'

Baldo's eldest child, 23-year-old Kristelle Ann, returned to Daraga from the US, where she served in the US Air Force, to show support for her father.

“I woke up one day and saw the news saying he’s the mastermind of a crime I know he’s not capable of. I’m seeing the posts and the stuff people are saying about him, they’re ruthless because they don’t even know him. My father is not the man that everybody is trying to portray him to be,” a teary-eyed Kristelle told Rappler.

Kristelle asked that her father be given the benefit of the doubt as he is innocent until proven guilty.

“I am asking everybody who believes one is innocent until proven guilty, that justice cannot be achieved through injustice, and that everyone has a right to a fair trial and due process, to join this group and support my father. Let us stand together and help him in our fight to affirm his innocence,” she said.

On her Facebook wall, Kristelle said she decided it was the "right time" for her to speak up.   

“But I am most hurt that people he had trusted has betrayed him all for money. My dad is a very trusting and generous person. I see now that some people have found a way to maliciously turn his virtues into faults. I feel for my dad. I suffer for him and with him. Kinawawa n'yo naman si Daddy. (You have no pity to my Daddy),” she said.

On January 3, the Philippine National Police (PNP) filed double murder and frustrated murder complaints against Baldo before the Albay Provincial Prosecutor's Office, citing as witnesses the hitmen who supposedly took part in the plot to kill Batocabe and his bodyguard Senior Police Officer 1 Orlando Diaz on December 22, 2018.

The PNP claimed the reelectionist mayor, who was running against Batocabe in May, supposedly offered P5 million to the hitmen. The alleged hitmen have already surrendered to police.

Batocabe had asserted his innocence and said he was being used as a "scapegoat." – Rappler.com