MANILA (UPDATE) – The killing of South Korean businessman Ick-joo Jee by alleged rogue cops inside the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has shaken the institution most vital to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
The abduction of Ick-joo Jee and his alleged killing inside Camp Crame is considered a smack in the face of police chief Ronald dela Rosa’s much-vaunted “Oplan Tokhang” anti-drug campaign, after it was discovered that the victim was kidnapped in October 2016 under the guise of an anti-drug operation.
"I want to disappear from this world because of so much shame after what my men did," Dela Rosa said on January 19.
Jee’s killing also shocked the South Korean community, which has a strong presence in the Philippines.
Jee’s kidnap-slay is the latest in a long list of controversies which has been hounding the PNP, considered as the one of the most corrupt institutions in the Philippines.
Prior to assuming his post as the country’s top cop, Dela Rosa dismissed fears that rogue policemen will take advantage of then President-elect Duterte’s anti-drug push.
However, a string of controversies such as the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. under questionable circumstances did not stop Dela Rosa and Duterte from pushing through with their controversial war on drugs. Even Duterte chose to side with policemen behind Espinosa’s killing, led by Supt. Marvin Marcos.
Duterte has always defended the police, saying he will provide them assistance should they face charges in the performance of their duty.
Here is the timeline on the abduction and killing of Jee:
OCTOBER 18, 2016
Jee was abducted from his house by policemen allegedly led by SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel of the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drug Group.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported this incident three months later. At the time of the reporting on January 8, it was not yet determined that Jee was already dead.
According to the report, Sta. Isabel, unnamed at the time, entered the South Korean's home in Angeles City last October 18 and announced a drug raid.
Marisa Morquicho, the couple's helper, said two men ransacked their house and accused Jee of being involved in drugs.
Choi Kyung-jin, the wife of the businessman, said P540,000 worth of jewelry and other personal items were stolen from their house.
The suspects then forced Jee and Morquicho to board a black Toyota Hilux parked outside the house. The two were brought to Quezon City Memorial Circle where the men transferred a blindfolded Morquicho to another vehicle.
Morquicho was freed in Quezon City at 1 a.m. of October 19 and given P1,000 fare money so she could go home.
The PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) said the Toyota Hilux used in the abduction was registered under the name of the suspect police officer’s wife.
Without being given proof that her husband was still alive, Choi said she gave P5 million ransom to the kidnappers on October 31, 2016 but they demanded P4.5 million more. She said the kidnappers texted her the message: "Game over."
JANUARY 12, 2017
On January 12, Jee’s wife Choi offered a P100,000 reward for anyone who can provide leads to the location of the businessman.
That same day, ABS-CBN News reported that Sta. Isabel was in Camp Crame all along, triggering confusion into the efforts by the PNP leadership to locate him.
Sta. Isabel, in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, denied any involvement in Jee’s kidnapping.
“Malaking puzzle sa akin dahil ang kalaban ko is nasa loob na ng Anti-Kidnapping [Group]. Masakit dahil PNP ang lumalabas na kalaban ko na,” Sta. Isabel said.
With the controversy now hurting the PNP’s already non-stellar reputation, Dela Rosa admitted on January 13 that the tag “tokhang-for-ransom” is hurting him. Dela Rosa, a former Davao City police chief, coined the term “tokhang” which means “knock and plead.”
Dela Rosa also doubted that Jee was still alive, considering that it had been three months since he was taken.
On January 16, Sta. Isabel surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), believing he would not be safe under the PNP.
Sta. Isabel's move, however, did not sit well with Dela Rosa, who insisted that the embattled cop should have surrendered to the PNP.
Dela Rosa also claimed Sta. Isabel has a "protector" but declined to give additional information pending investigation.
On January 17, in a major development in the abduction case, the South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that Jee had been murdered.
According to results of the investigation given to the South Korean government, Jee was strangled to death on the same day of his abduction.
The victim's remains were allegedly cremated.
NBI assistant regional director Roel Bolivar also confirmed on January 17 that Jee was already dead. He said one of their reasons for saying the missing South Korean is dead are photos from the funeral home that were shown to investigators.
Five embalmers and personnel of Gream Funeral Services were brought in by the NBI on January 17 for questioning, because a cadaver suspected to be that of Jee’s was allegedly brought there on October 18, 2016.
The victim's remains were allegedly cremated a day after Jee was kidnapped. The kidnappers' leader allegedly ordered the cremation at the Caloocan funeral parlor.
The embalmers confirmed that the South Korean's remains were indeed brought to Gream, after the NBI showed them photos of Jee.
Although authorities failed to find Jee's remains in the funeral parlor, the five embalmers and funeral parlor assistants confirmed that the Korean's body was brought to their funeral parlor around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. of October 18.
Two days after the NBI inspection, elements of the PNP-AKG went to the Caloocan funeral parlor.
Supt. Dennis Wagas, PNP-AKG legal affairs chief, said they found the victim’s golf set which was supposedly made as the payment for the storage of Jee’s remains at the funeral parlor.
Wagas said a witness claimed Jee's ashes were flushed down the toilet after cremation.
In another twist to the story, authorities tagged the owner of the funeral as a person of interest in the kidnap-slay.
Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan said Barangay 165 chairman Gerardo Santiago, who owns the funeral parlor where Jee’s remains were reportedly kept, filed a leave of absence from January 10 to February 10.
The Department of Justice, citing Immigration records, confirmed that Santiago flew to Vancouver, Canada on January 11.
Santiago left the country on the same day that Jee's wife sought help over the abduction of her husband.
According to Malapitan, Santiago retired in 2007 from the Northern Police District, where he had worked with Sta. Isabel.
Shocking the entire PNP, Dela Rosa said on January 19 that Jee was killed inside Camp Crame.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on January 19 announced it has found enough grounds to charge Sta. Isabel and his cohorts for kidnapping for ransom with homicide.
The DOJ based its findings on the testimony of SPO4 Roy Villegas and PO2 Christopher Baldovino, as well as the statements of Jee’s house helper Morquicho.
Villegas and Baldovino’s statements detailed their knowledge of the incident involving the victim and pointed to Sta. Isabel and his co-conspirators as the abductors who killed the victim.
Villegas' testimony identified Sta. Isabel as the one who strangled, and eventually killed Jee. It was also allegedly Sta. Isabel who directed that Jee's remains be brought to a funeral parlor.
In his affidavit, Villegas said he did not know about the supposed plans of Sta. Isabel and thought that he was just joining a legitimate police operation.
Villegas said, Sta. Isabel was getting instructions from a certain Supt. Dumlao, possibly referring to the embattled cop’s immediate superior at the PNP-AIDG, Supt. Raphael Dumlao.
A local court on January 20 ordered the arrest of the suspects.
Alarmed by the impact of the scandal and its far-reaching implications to the Duterte government, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez urged Dela Rosa to resign to spare the President of embarrassment.
It was also on this day that Sta. Isabel’s wife, Jinky, met with DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Aguirre said Sta. Isabel wanted to become part of the government’s witness protection program.
On January 21, Saturday, in yet another major development in the scandal, Jinky held a press conference at her house and claimed she was in possession of various items that would prove the innocence of her husband.
Jinky argued her husband was being set up as a fall guy by higher police officials who wanted Jee dead.
She implicated Supt. Dumlao and a certain Colonel Macapagal from the PNP's Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) in the killing of the Korean.
She said she has in her possession a recorded phone call between her and Dumlao, which she said took place on January 14, where the latter allegedly said a “scenario” would be created wherein several Angeles City, Pampanga policemen would be killed and they will be made to appear as the real kidnappers of the Korean.
According to Jinky, this planned cover-up was aimed at clearing Supt. Dumlao and others in the kidnap-slay.
Jinky also alleged that it was Supt. Dumlao who tortured the Korean.
Dumlao allegedly promised Jinky that if her husband agreed to the cover-up, PNP chief Dela Rosa would take back his manhunt orders against Sta. Isabel.
Jinky said she does not think her husband would agree to the plan because it would go against his conscience.
She also maintained that her husband was in Manila at the time of the abduction, but nonetheless admitted that her husband brought Jee’s remains to the Caloocan funeral parlor.
Jinky also tagged another Dumlao in the killing and alleged cover-up plan, PNP-AKG acting chief Senior Superintendent Glenn Dumlao.
She said, Sr. Supt. Dumlao met with her and convinced her to agree to the cover-up plan.
Sr. Supt. Dumlao denied Jinky’s accusation and said the latter actually met with him and Supt. Dumlao at a tennis court in Camp Crame at the height of the scandal. During the meeting, Sr. Supt. Dumlao said Jinky and her lawyers asked him to clear Sta. Isabel’s name before the media.
Sr. Supt. Dumlao said he agreed to help Sta. Isabel on the condition that he will reveal the truth, including the whereabouts of Jee, dead or alive.
Highlighting the complexity of the case, Aguirre on Sunday, January 22, said the golf set found at the funeral home may have been planted, noting that NBI agents did not spot it when they went to the funeral parlor on January 17.
It was the PNP-AKG which found the golf set. Sr. Supt. Dumlao, the group’s acting chief, has since denied that golf set was planted, noting that the item was carefully hidden in a box.
As this developed, President Duterte also rejected Dela Rosa’s offer for him to quit as PNP chief in the wake of the scandal.
On January 23, The Philippine Star reported that it was able to obtain from an NBI insider Sta. Isabel’s affidavit, where the latter admitted his participation to the crime.
Sta. Isabel implicated Supt. Dumlao and Senior Superintendent Allan Macapagal of the PNP-AKG.
In his affidavit, Sta. Isabel admitted to dispatching the Korean’s body but denied killing him.
Sta. Isabel said Supt. Dumlao ordered him to join the October 18 operation on Jee but he declined.
He would later be summoned on the same day to Camp Crame, where he said he saw a still alive Jee and the latter’s house help, Morquicho.
He said Supt. Dumlao ordered him to bring Morquicho somewhere and kill her. He said he did not kill Morquicho out of pity and instead dropped her off along Balete Drive in Quezon City.
Sta. Isabel said when he returned to Camp Crame, the Korean was already dead. It was at this point that he brought Jee’s remains to the Caloocan funeral parlor, carrying P30,000 for the cremation of the body. The ashes were then allegedly flushed down the toilet.
The embattled cop’s statement clashes with that of Villegas, who claimed seeing Sta. Isabel strangling the Korean to death.
Jinky’s claims have irked Dela Rosa, who vented his ire towards the media for supposedly portraying Sta. Isabel as the hero and the PNP as villains.
In view of the developments, Aguirre ordered the NBI to provide security to Jinky, who reportedly has been receiving death threats.
Aguirre also said he suspects that the kidnap-slay case is being used to destroy the Duterte government.
Meanwhile, Villegas and Baldivino both claimed that NBI agents were also involved in the kidnap-slay. Villegas said the alias “Jerry” who took part in the operation belongs to the NBI.
Baldivino said he took part in the initial attempt to take Jee on October 4. He said he was no longer included in the October 18 operation. Like Villegas, he also maintained that he had no idea about the criminal plan.