A Pampanga regional trial court has ordered the release of the state witness in the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in October 2016 from the custody of the Philippine National Police.
In a two-page order dated January 30, the Angeles City Regional Trial Court, Branch 56, granted the motion seeking the release of Senior Police Officer 4 Roy Villegas from restrictive custody of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
“After considering the respective arguments of the parties, the Court resolves to grant the motions of witness Villegas. Based on the proceedings held in these cases, it appears that witness Villegas already finished his testimony and it can be concluded that he already fulfilled his duty as a state witness,” stated the order issued by Judge Irin Zenaida Buan.
Two of the three accused in the kidnapping for ransom with homicide case—Senior Police Officer 2 Ricky Sta. Isabel and Jerry Umlang—opposed the motion of Villegas, citing the petition they filed before the Court of Appeals involving the case.
However, the lower court held that the pendency of the CA petition “will not interrupt the course of the main case unless a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction is issued by the appellate court,” citing amendments in Section 7, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
“In view of this injunction, the Court may rule on the motion of witness Villegas notwithstanding the pending petition with the Honorable Court of Appeals,” it said.
The RTC earlier discharged Villegas as a state witness and removed him from the list of accused in the criminal case in Jan. last year upon a motion by Department of Justice prosecutors.
Along with principal accused Superintendent Rafael Dumlao III, Sta. Isabel and Umlang are currently detained at the Angeles City Jail.
Another accused, Gerardo “Ding” Santiago, owner of the Gream Funeral Services where the body of the victim was brought, was also indicted as an accessory.
Jee was abducted on Oct.18, 2016 and killed inside Camp Crame. An alleged victim of the so-called “Tokhang for ransom,” his body was not recovered and reportedly cremated and flushed in the toilet.