THE authorities arrested in Friday three policemen tagged in the kidnapping and killing Korean executive Jee Ick Joo in October 2016 as ordered by a regional trial court in Angeles City.
The arrest warrant issued by Angeles City RTC Branch 58 was served on SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, SPO4 Roy Villegas, SPO4 Ramon Yalung as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez demanded the resignation of Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa over the killing of the Korean businessman.
“The commission of a heinous crime right under his very nose is not only an insult but a clear indication that he has lost the respect of his people,” Alvarez said after learning that Jee was killed at the PNP’s Camp Crame headquarters.
“Social media like Youtube is now replete with the booboos of General Dela Rosa including his running away from a press conference like a headless chicken after the pyrotechnic device he was holding started to smoke,” Alvarez said in a statement.
“How can we believe the stern statements Dela Rosa had been making against criminals like in the aftermath of the Davao City bombing when he was the first to run in the slightest possibility of danger?
“General Dela Rosa seems more interested in having a showbiz career and in landing on society pages of newspapers with his being everywhere doing mundane things like singing videoke and watching concerts,” Alvarez added.
Alvarez noted that four more suspects–known only under the aliases “Pulis,” “Jerry,” “Sir Dumlao” and “Ding”–have yet to be arrested.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said a team from the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group served the warrant against Sta. Isabel at the National Bureau of Investigation where he was detained while Villegas and Yalung got their warrants while in detention at Camp Crame.
The RTC issued the order just two days after the Justice department filed the complaint for the complex crime of kidnapping for ransom with homicide against the accused.
Aguirre said the PNP would take physical custody of Sta. Isabel and Villegas and submit a return of warrant to the RTC informing the court about the custody.
The Justice secretary said Sta. Isabel, who cited threats to his life, may opt to ask the court to allow transfer of his custody to the NBI through his three public attorneys provided by Public Attorneys’ Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta.
“That is an option his PAO lawyers can pursue,” he added.
Aguirre said the case was filed after the Justice department issued a resolution finding probable cause in the complaint filed by the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group in November last year.
“They [accused] did not submit counter-affidavits, so the inquest proceedings were resolved without them submitting any countervailing evidence,” he said.
Asked if Sta. Isabel could qualify for witness protection program as he suggested a day earlier, Aguirre said he could not yet say until the policeman submits his affidavit to the Justice department for assessment.
Villegas reportedly confessed that it was Sta. Isabel who strangled Jee.
The AKG initially filed a complaint only for kidnapping for ransom against Sta. Isabel, Villegas and company.
However, when investigators discovered that Jee was already killed and cremated, the Justice department upgraded the case to the complex crime of kidnapping for ransom with homicide and recommended no bail for the accused.
In a seven-page resolution issued earlier this week, the DoJ said Villegas gave a detailed narration of the abduction and the eventual killing of the victim in police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Villegas said Sta. Isabel brought packaging tape and surgical gloves and ordered them to cover the head of the victim and follow him.
“He finally recalls seeing respondent Sta. Isabel strangling and killing the victim,” the DoJ resolution said.
Last Tuesday evening, the NBI, together with the Caloocan police, went to the funeral parlor after receiving information that Jee’s body was taken there on the same day he was abducted on Oct. 18, 2016. Jee’s body, however, had already been cremated last year.
The AKG complaint said the 53-year-old Jee was forcibly taken by eight armed men on Oct. 18 last year from his residence in Angeles City.
His family paid P5 million ransom money on Oct. 30 but the businessman was still not released as the kidnappers asked for an additional P4 million.
But when Jee’s wife Choi Kyunghin asked for proof of life and the abductors failed to give it, she sought police assistance.
In his affidavit, Villegas said it was Sta. Isabel who strangled Jee inside Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police.
On Tuesday, the NBI announced Jee was dead after getting a tip from an informant that led government agents to a funeral home owned by Gerardo “Ding” Santiago, a barangay chairman in Caloocan City and a retired police officer.
No body was found during the search but the South Korean foreign ministry, citing a supposed Philippine government report, learned that the businessman was strangled and cremated.
A Palace officials on Friday played down suggestions that Jee’s death was an example of how the government’s war on drugs could be used as cover by crooked cops and was a sign that the rule of law was breaking down under the Duterte administration.
“In a 100-percent scenario, its’ totally less than one percent, so how can that be a breakdown? Definitely, its an isolated case,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters in a chance interview.
Panelo added that the recent incident will not impair the success of the government’s war on drugs through Oplan Double Barrel Alpha, or Tokhang being done in communities.
“Not really. It has been successful so far. So any impairment by reason of this incident will not affect the success of the project,” he said.
On Thursday, New-York based Human Rights Watch said that Duterte’s “war on drugs” only “widened the gateway” for policemen to get away with murder without being made accountable for the thousands of deaths in this administration.
Teresita Ang See of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order said that at least 11 “tokhang for ransom” cases committed by scalawag policemen have been reported following the government’s intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
While policemen were admittedly using Duterte’s war on drugs, Panelo said these incidents were limited.
“When you say they are, you only refer to very limited number of policemen,” Panelo said.
“That’s very small. There will be of course people using the drug operation for their own advantage but they will eventually pay,” he added.
Panelo added that those guilty for Jee’s murder inside Camp Crame would pay.
“The President will not tolerate any police abuse. All these police scalawags will be dealt with and prosecuted to the fullest under the law,” Panelo said. “They will pay for that.”
“There is one policeman who executed an affidavit detailing what happened. That’s enough to prove the case against the suspects,” he said.
“If the testimony says that the body was burned, cremated, then you have testimony that there was no body…that will substitute for the production of the corpus delicti,” he added.
Lawmakers on Friday said they were alarmed by Aguirre’s statement Thursday that Sta. Isabel had pointed to the involvement of a higher PNP official in the case.
Reps. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela, Tobias Tiangco of Navotas, Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list and Tom Villarin of Akbayan party-list urged the DoJ to look into the issue at the soonest possible time and file appropriate charges against those guilty.
“This a very serious case involving a member of the biggest foreign community in the Philippines, and National Police officials,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte also urged the House leaders to initiate a congressional probe into the matter.
Tiangco said the Justice department should move swiftly on the “higher official” involved.
“That official has a criminal liability and he must be jailed and removed from the service as soon as possible,” Tiangco said.
Villarin said the bucks should stop at Malacañang.
“I believe responsibility goes as high as Malacanang because of President Duterte’s policy to let PNP officials get off the hook starting with Senior Superintendent Marcos even if they are involved in murder. Now the crime of kidnapping and murder is committed within the PNP headquarters itself,” Villarin said.
Like Belmonte, he believed Congress needs to investigate the case.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the PNP leadership should lose no time in addressing the issue by going after all rogue cops “with hammer and tongs” who only care about their personal gain to the detriment of the entire police organization.
The priority, he said, must be to go after those taking advantage of the President’s “all-out, mostly bloody war on illegal drugs.”
“Seventeen years ago, when I was the Chief PNP, I really hit hard on the inept, corrupt and undisciplined policemen, regardless of rank, or what I referred to at that time as ICUs. My primary concern was to do justice to the sacrifices of the overwhelmingly many honest and hardworking police officers,” said Lacson.
“Director General Dela Rosa knows that, and I’m certain he knows how to do it because he was one of those at the forefront of our no-nonsense internal cleansing of the police,” Lacson added.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said police allegedly involved in the killing must be held accountable.
Senator Francis Escudero called the murder inside Camp Crame “not only embarrassing” but “outright wrong and unacceptable.”
“This shows the absence of respect and sheer arrogance of some police officers not only with their PNP chief but for their uniform and organization,” Escudero said.
“This is what happens when you handle with kid gloves abusive PNP officers and coddle and protect them. General De la Rosa said it himself once before: ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’” he added.
Escudero referred specifically President Rodrigo Duterte’s defense of Supt. Marvin Marcos, who led a police raid on a jail that killed Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in what the NBI described as a rubout. With Macon Araneta
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