HANJIN executive Jee Ick Joo was strangled right inside the Philippine National Police’s Camp Crame headquarters in Quezon City last October, investigators revealed Thursday as the Justice department approved charges against two policemen and five others.
Charged were Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, SPO4 Roy Villegas, Ramon Yalung and four others identified only under the aliases “Pulis,” “Jerry,” “Sir Dumlao” and “Ding.”
Prosecutors said none of the respondents were able to submit any evidence denying their participation in the crime.
A preliminary investigation conducted by the Justice department showed that Jee, together with house help Marisa D. Morquicho, was taken by two unidentified men from his house in Pampanga on Oct. 18, 2016.
In her affidavit, Morquicho said the men introduced themselves as police officers and ordered her to accompany them to Jee’s room.
The house help said the accused later told her that her employer was involved in illegal drug activities.
Upon arrival at Camp Crame, Morquicho said she was transferred to Sta. Isabel’s car and eventually released.
PO2 Christopher Baldovino said in his affidavit that he was part of the surveillance operation that was conducted before Jee’s abduction.
“He joined the operation as he believed then that the operation was a legitimate police operation against the herein victim who, according to respondent Sta. Isabel, was involved in illegal drugs,” the Justice department resolution stated.
In his affidavit, Villegas said while inside Camp Crame, he heard Sta. Isabel talking to a certain “Sir “Dumlao” where he overheard him say: “Sir ang alam ko ay kilala nyo ang mga taong ito dahil ang pagkakaalam ko ay sanction niyo ito.” (Sir, I know that you know these people and that that you’ve sanctioned this.”)
He also said that Sta. Isabel was the one who brought packaging tape and surgical gloves and ordered them to cover the head of the victim and follow him instead of Dumlao.
“He finally recalls seeing respondent Sta. Isabel strangling and killing the victim,” the resolution said.
After the victim was killed, Villegas said Sta. Isabel called a certain “Ding” who agreed to receive the body in exchange for P30,000 and a golf set.
Then, the body was brought to the funeral parlor in Caloocan.
“He reiterates that he thought all along that the surveillance and police operations which he participated in are legitimate police operations,” Villegas claimed.
“When he realized it, he did not resist and instead, he obeyed the instruction of respondent Sta. Isabel for fear of his life and that of his family,” the same resolution said.
The Justice department said the respondents failed to counter the evidence against them as well as the testimonies of Morquicho, the victim’s wife Kyungjin Choi and the admission made by Villegas and Baldovino.
“Until now, no controverting evidence was filed by any of the respondents despite the opportunity given to them,” the resolution said.
Despite Villegas’ claim that Sta. Isabel was the one who strangled Jee, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday he could become a state witness.
Aguirre said Sta. Isabel can be under the coverage of the government’s witness protection program because he knows everything about the incident after he confessed his participation in the crime and pinpointed other police officers involved.
Aguirre added that Sta. Isabel, who is currently under protective custody of the National Bureau of Investigation, has given details to probers during his interrogation.
He declined, however, to say what Sta. Isabel’s version of events was, but said he implicated a “higher official” in the PNP.
Aguirre also said the Embassy of the Republic of Korea has sought his assistance in the case, and that he would give them updates on the ongoing NBI investigation.
Five employees of Gream Funeral Services in Bagbag, Caloocan City, are now with the NBI and are undergoing questioning after it was confirmed that the missing Korean national was taken to them on the same day of his abduction and murder last year.
On Tuesday evening, the NBI, together with the Caloocan police went to the funeral parlor after receiving information that the body of Jee Ick Joo, a former executive at shipbuilding firm Hanjin was taken to the funeral parlor the same day he was abducted.
His body could not be found, however, and investigators later learned that Jee’s body had been cremated.
Aguirre vowed to expedite the resolution of the case.
Aside from Sta. Isabel, eight others are implicated in the abduction of Jee.
Supt. Dennis Wagas, legal officer of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, said the golf set owned by Jee was found in the property of Gerardo Gregorio Santiago, a retired policeman and the proprietor of Gream Funeral Services in Caloocan City.
Wagas said, based on the initial investigation, the set of golf clubs, valued at over P100,000 was brought to the funeral parlor as payment for the safe keeping of Jee’s body.
Police are still looking for Santiago, who was said to have left for Canada.
Aguirre said they would coordinate with Interpol to locate Santiago.
Choi Kyunghin, wife of Jee, 53, said his husband was forcibly taken by eight armed men on Oct. 18 from his residence.
His family paid P5 million in ransom on Oct. 31 but he was never released.
The abductors asked for an additional P4 million but failed to produce a proof of life, prompting the family to seek police assistance.
Police were also still looking for Jee’s Ford Explorer, which remained missing.
In a statement released on Thursday, the South Korean Embassy expressed shock and deep regret over the killing of its citizen by the police.
“We call upon the Philippine authorities to thoroughly conduct the investigation so that the facts of the matter should be brought into light and that those responsible must be brought to justice,” the embassy said.
“We are very much shocked that an innocent Korean businessman became a victim in the heinous crime committed by a group led by police officers under the pretext of performing duties,” it added.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay met with South Korean Ambassador Kim Jae-Shin.
“I was not privy to what was discussed,” Jose said.
Jose said he did not think ties between the two countries would be hurt by the incident.
“We don’t expect the case to have a diplomatic fallout,” Jose said.
PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa apologized to the South Korean government for letting the murder of Jee happen under his nose inside Camp Crame.
“I’m very angry. Very offended. I want to melt in shame. It happened inside Camp Crame. They got him in Caloocan, then brought him inside Camp Crame, and there he was killed. If I can just melt right now because of shame. I’m very ashamed,” Dela Rosa told reporters.
“I’m very sorry that this crime happened with my men involved [in this incident.] If this incident happened in Korea, their customs and traditions dictate that I should kill myself because of shame … It’s very hard for me, I want to melt because of my men,” he added.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se demanded answers after receiving a phone call from Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. to inform him of the murder.
“Minister Yun, expressing grave shock over the implication of Philippine police officers in the case, asked that the Philippine government get to the bottom of the case and bring those responsible to justice,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Dela Rosa assured to the South Korean government that he would be give them a proper explanation “in due time.”
“We’re updating the Korean Embassy… We will give the whole explanation after everything is done,” he added.
Dela Rosa cited police reports that the South Korean’s cremated remains were flushed down the toilet.
“The employee of the funeral parlor said that they panicked. I don’t know how true is that, but they allegedly flushed down the ashes of the businessman inside the toilet bowl when policemen visited,” Dela Rosa said.