Lawmakers honor Rodel Batocabe, the ‘Daragueño Who Dared’

MANILA, Philippines – Past and present legislators, friends, and a former law school professor of AKO Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe honored the life and worksof the slain congressman on Monday, January 14. 

Batocabe’s colleagues and his former political law review professor, retired Supreme Court associate justice Vicente Mendoza, recalled their fondest memories of the lawmaker, who died on December 22, 2018, at the hands of gunmen allegedly hired by one of Batocabe’s opponents in the 2019 polls, reelectionist Daraga Mayor Calywn Baldo

No less than Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called Batocabe “The Daragueño Who Dared,” praising him for his legislative record, including co-authoring Republic Act (RA) 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 and RA 10174 or the law establishing the People’s Survival Fund.

All of the eulogists remember Batocabe as a man who often cracked jokes, but who was passionate about his work as a congressman. (READ: Who is Rodel Batocabe?)

Batocabe’s wife Gertie Duran Batocabe was seen crying during the ceremony. She was comforted by their sons Kiel and lawyer Justin Batocabe, who also delivered the response to the eulogies. 

Lawmakers and other guests wore pins that read, “Justice for Cong. Rodel Batocabe” during the memorial service.

Here are excerpts from the 6 eulogies for the late party-list representative: 

Lawyer John Reyes, Batocabe’s batch mate from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law:

“As early as our law student days, Rodel had shown his innate skills as a politician. While he did not run in any position in the law student council, he was the spokesperson of the political party we created… At that time, he already had to desire that a political exercise should be as it is – a mere political exercise without hatred from those contending for the position. This he exhibited when he ran for congressman and when he ran for mayor in Daraga, Albay. Rodel had no enemies, who was the type of person who was everyone’s friend because he was good-natured and fun to be with. It is therefore extremely devastating for his classmates, and I’m sure all of you who knew Rodel, to have learned that Rodel, a non-violent and a fun-loving individual, will be murdered with extreme prejudice. 

“But one thing I must say, for all his achievements in life, and even after he had become a congressman for 3 terms, Rodel never changed. He remained humble. My wife Dianne would always tell Rodel that she always appreciated that Rodel never changed. And Rodel would always answer this way: ‘Itong position ko, temporary lang. Hindi dapat magyabang. Baka bukas, wala na ko sa position.’ Rodel has always been grounded, from our law school days and even when he became a congressman." 

Former SC associate justice Vicente Mendoza:

“Rodel Batocabe had been a party-list representative of the AKO Bicol which the Comelec had disqualified from participating in the 2013 elections. The Comelec had found that AKO Bicol was not a sectoral but a regional party, merely duplicating functions already performed by district represetatives. Rodel denied this and his group denied it too, and they claimed that they were representing underrepresented and marginalized sectors of the Bicol region. 

“After studying the case and considering it was the request of a former student, I agreed to take the case. We litigated the case for several months in the Supreme Court. On April 3, 2013, the court rendered its decision reversing the Comelec decision and ordering the AKO Bicol to be included in the ballot for the 2013 elections…. Rodel imbibed the lesson of that case. He became the president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation and the AKO Bicol. He filed a bill, House Bill No. 134, to strengthen the party-list system. He had become an eloquent advocate of the party-list system.”

Former 1-CARE representative Michael Rivera

“May isa po akong kuwento po akong naaalala. Nailusot namin ang Republic Act 101510. Ang sabi niya sa akin, ‘Mike, pakainin mo na kami.’ Ayaw niya pong kumain sa mumurahing restaurant. Ang sabi niya sa akin, dadalhin kita sa restaurant na mamahalin at ikaw ang magbayad dahil nailusot naman natin ito.’ Ang sabi ko: ‘Sige, walang problema, pare.’ Pero nagyaya pa ho siya ng aming mga kasamang congressman dahil ako raw ho ang maglilibre… Order po siya nang order ng mga pagkain, lahat po ng masasarap na pagkain eh inorder niya. Ako naman ho, ‘Sige lang, order ka nang order.’ Pero afterward po na natapos ang aming kain, binayaran ko po ito ng credit card na expired… After 5 minutes, tumatawag na. Sabi niya, ‘Loko-loko ka. Expired 'tong card mo. Bayaran mo sa akin 'to sa Monday.’ 

“Congressman Rodel, paalam, at sana pagpalain ka ng Maykapal sa malayo mong biyahe.” 

(I recall one story. We had just passed Republic Act 101510. And he said: 'Mike, you should treat us to a meal.' And he said he didn't want the meal to be in just a simple restaurant. He told me, I will take you to a fancy restaurant, but you will pay for the meals because we were able to pass the bill. I replied: 'Sure, no problem, my friend.' But he started inviting our fellow congressmen to join us because he said I was paying for the meals... In the restaurant, he kept on ordering food. He ordered all these delicious dishes. As for me, I said, 'Go ahead, just keep ordering.' After the meals I paid for it with my expired credit card... After a few minutes, he called. He told me: 'Are you nuts?! Your credit card is expired! Pay me on Monday.'

Farewell Congressman Rodel, and may the Almighty bless in your long journey.)

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez

“The work of Rodel during his 9 years in Congress is a living testament of his dedication to public servant. Rodel had a joyful disposition, was always happy. Indeed, it is always difficult to say goodbye to a kind and decent man. 

“The last time I saw Rodel was during our Christmas party. We were both having fun with the minority, but he had to say goodbye because he said he has to leave for the province. I asked him to pass  by my secretary. [I said], ‘I have my Christmas package for you.’ So he passed by my office, and when he received the package, he said to my secretary, ‘Please tell Manong Danny I will miss him.’ I’ll never forget  that.”

Deputy Speaker and AAMBIS-OWA Representative Sharon Garin

“It was the first time in history that a party-list representative became deputy speaker. I definitely would not have been given this opportunity if not for Rodel. Under Rodel’s presidency, the party-list coalition became stronger, united, and empowered. I can proudly say that during this Congress, some of the most active members at the plenary and committee hearings are party-list members. All of these are consequences of Rodel’s leadership as president of PCFI.  He fought tooth and nail to keep us united. He treated each member with equal respect and importance, resulting to an empowered and individually confident set of members.

“Punishment of the person who masterminded the ostentatious and heartless killing of Rodel would indeed be justice. But justice is also the assignment of merited rewards. Hence, it is justice for Rodel if we honor and continue his work. It is justice for Rodel if we support his advocacies for Bicol, education, health, population development, human rights, and climate change. It is justice for Rodel if we raise the standards of debate and preparation in legislative work. It is justice for Rodel if we exercise compassion and dedication in public service, be it for the people we serve or the country we aim to protect.” 

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

“All of us recall Rodel to be a bubbly fellow. On the other hand we have heard our eulogists, we have seen in the video what a daring man he was. The Daragueño Who Dared. He dared to confront the evil in Daraga at the cost of his life.

“Here in the physically safer halls of Congress, he was also daring in the advocacies that he pursued. He manifested his fearlessness in the vigor by which he pursued his ideas and convictions. Others who have spoken earlier have mentioned the great passion and brilliance with which he conveyed his ideas, whether they were interpellation arguments, interpellation questions, sponsorships or manifestations, or his opinion on an issue.” 

Batocabe’s son Justin thanked all the eulogists for helping the family cope with his father’s death.

“It is said that the stars shine the brightest in the blackest of night. In this dark night of despair, each of you – relatives, friends and colleagues – have been our family’s shining light. Your words of empathy, love, and encouragement fills us with the hope to endure the long night and meet each new day with heads help up high. For that, we are truly grateful,” said Justin.

Batocabe was one of the more vocal party-list representatives in the 17th Congress, where he served as the party-list coalition president. He was vice chairperson of 3 major House committees, including the panels on dangerous drugs, good government and public accountability, and natural resources.

A lawyer and full-fledged Iskolar ng Bayan, Batocabe graduated with honors with a degree in economics at the UP Diliman. He finished law at the UP College of Law, before taking up his masteral degree in public administration in the same university.

He was close to his wife and sons, pictures of whom he often posted on his Facebook account. Batocabe was killed on the same day he and Gertie were celebrating their wedding anniversary. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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