23 December 2018 — The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities joins Filipinos in condemning the murder of Philippine legislator and climate advocate Rodel Batocabe and his police escort Orlando Diaz.

Representative Batocabe, who had been serving his third term in the 17th Congress under the Ako Bicol partylist, was shot dead by still-unidentified gunmen yesterday afternoon during a Christmas gift-giving event in his hometown of Daraga in Albay, Bicol. He was running for mayor in the town in next year’s elections against the incumbent, who has publicly condemned the killings.

Political violence in the Philippines often increases come election season, with political dynasties employing private armies and mercenaries, long before Duterte was elected president. The number of extrajudicial killings however has since increased; the death toll now stands between 5,000 to over 20,000.

Representative Batocabe, a Duterte ally, “was the 21st official murdered since Mr. Duterte took office two years ago and began a brutal anti-narcotics crackdown.” At least two more men were found lifeless also in Daraga this morning, the day after Rep. Batocabe and SPO1 Diaz were slain. A vice mayoral candidate was killed about a week ago by also still-unidentified gunmen. Also among the recent victims of EJKs are human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and Philippine Military Academy imam Bedejim Abdulla.

The Ako Bicol partylist representative was elected chair of the House Special Committee on Climate Change under the 16th Congress (July 2013–June 2016). He was a member of the Philippine delegation to several sessions of the UN climate negotiations.

He remained active in climate change issues even after the chairmanship passed to his fellow Ako Bicol partylist representative Christopher Co.

ICSC has been working with Reps. Batocabe and Co to improve climate change policy in the Philippines. ICSC co-organized a congressional hearing with them last year to brief their fellow solons on the status of the People’s Survival Fund, the Philippines’ first legislated climate change adaptation mechanism for local governments.

In 2016, Rep. Batocabe spearheaded a joint hearing of the House special committees on climate change and food security, in which technical experts from our national government agencies illustrated how climate change threatened agricultural production. He was critical to organizing a scientific session on slow onset events in Congress the year before.

Representative Batocabe was a friend to the climate cause. ICSC will always remember his sense of humor and contributions to the struggle to advance Philippine development policy compatible with the Paris Agreement.

For the sake of the families of Rep. Rodel Batocabe and SPO1 Orlando Diaz, and all victims of extrajudicial killings, we hope justice is served swiftly.