By Genalyn D. Kabiling, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Jeffrey G. Damicog
The Philippine government has offered a public apology to South Korea over the controversial kidnap-slay of its national, businessman Jee Ick-Joo inside the country’s police headquarters.
In extending the country’s deep regrets, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella assured the government is determined to swiftly bring to justice the culprits behind Jee’s death.
“We apologize to the South Korean government and people for this irreparable loss but we commit to the full force of the law to ensure that justice is served and not delayed,” Abella said in a Palace news conference.
“To the Korean people, please accept our sincerest and deepest regrets,” he added.
Abella also extended the President and the nation’s sympathies to the family of the slain Korean businessman.
“We wish to take this occasion to express condolences and sympathies of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Filipino people to Mrs. Choi Kyung-jin, the widow of Mr. Jee Ick-joo, the South Korean national who met untimely death while in police custody,” Abella said.
Jee and his Filipina house help, Marisa Morquicho was taken from his Angeles city residence by policemen in the guise of an anti-illegal drug operation at 2 p.m. of October 18 and was killed seven hours later in Camp Crame. On October 30, the perpetrators demanded a P5 million ransom from Jee’s wife who paid ransom the next day, October 31 hoping that her husband would be released. On November 2, the suspects contacted Jee’s widow anew and demanded an additional P4.5 million. But the widow did not give in and demanded proof of life.
The Angeles city court has ordered the arrest of the prime suspect, SP03 Ricky Sta. Isabel, SP04 Roy Villegas and four others after state prosecutors finding probable cause to indict the respondents for kidnap for ransom with homicide charged them before an Angeles city court last week.
Sta. Isabel, Villegas and P02 Christopher Baldivino are under custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Supt. Raphael Dumlao,the alleged team leader of the group at the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) is also under restrictive custody.
Malacañang pledged that there will be no whitewash or cover-up in the investigation.
Abella said the government does not tolerate corrupt, abusive and errant policemen who betray the PNP organization and the people.
Part of destab plot?
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered an investigation into reports that an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is involved in the abduction of Jee.
“I have directed the NBI to look into this immediately,” Aguirre assured. The Secretary reiterated that he does not tolerate corruption among officials and personnel of the Justice Department and its attached agencies, the NBI included.
“In my turf, there is zero tolerance for corruption,” Aguirre added.
He, however suspects that some quarters are using the Jee case to destabilize the Duterte administration.
“Alam po ninyo, ang talagang trust ng Duterte administration nga yung war on drugs at ang simbolo niyan ay ang kapulisan sa pangunguna ni General (Ronald) “Bato” dela Rosa (The thrust of the Duterte administration has been the war on drugs which is led by the police under the leadership of dela Rosa),” he told reporters.
“Kung gusto mo i-destabilize ang Duterte administration, sisirain mo muna ang kanyang pinanghahawakan, yung kapulisan. Sirain mo si General Bato dela Rosa (If you want to destabilize the Duterte administration, you have to ruin the police and dela Rosa),” he explained.
Sta. Isabel’s wife, Jinky, claimed she has a recording of a conversation between her husband and Dumlao which would reportedly clear her husband.
Though the audio recording is illegal, Aguirre pointed out it would definitely help in the investigation.
Aguirre said SP03 Sta. Isabel cannot be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) being a government agent.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson is set to hold a hearing on the alleged “tokhang for ransom” on Thursday (January 26) and will take up the case of the slain Korean businessman.
Sta. Isabel’s wife, Jinky has asked Lacson’s office to allow her to present a wiretapped conversation that would reportedly reveal the masterminds in the Jee slay. But Lacson, a former PNP chief said he is not enthusiastic to invite Mrs. Sta. Isabel because what she would be presenting would be merely hearsay and not based on facts.
“Nagvo-volunteer nga siya maimbita. But ako I’m not too enthusiastic na imbitahin kasi (She’s volunteering to be invited. But I’m not to enthusiastic to invite her because) she’s all over the place,” Lacson said in an interview.
“Ang dami niyang sinasabi, sinisiraan ang PNP. We want to hear from the person himself muna, si Sta Isabel (She’s saying so many things, mostly against the PNP. We want to hear from the person involved himself, Sta. Isabel),” the senator said referring to the prime suspect.
Lacson said the behavior of the Sta. Isabel couple shows there is an attempt to muddle the story.
“We invited the PNP leadership. We invited DOJ panel of prosecution. We also sent invitation to Sta. Isabel but its up to the PNP to arrange for his security,” he said.
But even without Sta. Isabel, Lacson said the panel can proceed with the probe based on the investigations conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), DOJ and the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG).
Lacson also invited the wife of Jee to attend the hearing with her lawyer.