Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa is losing hope that kidnapped South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo is still alive three months after he was allegedly abducted by scalawag cops and several foreigners.
"Malabo na yan. Sana makita. Ayoko ngang bolahin yung asawa, yung wife, pero ako rin, nagho-hope din ako na sana naman buhay pa yung biktima. Pero sa ganito katagal at ganito na meron na tayong na-identify na mga involved, most likely pinatay na yan," he said.
(It looks bleak. I hope he's found. I didn't want to fool the wife although I am still hoping that the victim is still alive. But with the length of time and the identification of the people involved, most likely he was killed.)
Jee, a former director at a South Korean heavy industries firm, disappeared from his home in the northern city of Angeles in October last year, with the kidnappers demanding a ransom for his release, authorities said.
Police said earlier this week an officer with an anti-drug task force was suspected of involvement, that he had been placed under "restrictive custody" and that criminal charges would be filed against him.
On Thursday, the PNP chief revealed the accused officer had not been detained as part of his "restrictive custody". He said the policeman was meant to just report to his officers, but that he had stopped doing so and gone missing.
Hours after Dela Rosa's interview, the accused officer, SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, surfaced and said he had not been in hiding but had been reporting to the PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management in Camp Crame.
Sta. Isabel, who is assigned with the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, said he had nothing to do with the abduction and even claimed there are hospital records that would show he was in a hospital on the day of Jee's kidnapping.
The officer then cast blame on the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group for linking him to the crime and said he is resigning after 20 years as a police officer.
"Masakit dahil lumalabas PNP ang kalaban ko na," he said.
(It's hard because it turns out I am fighting the PNP.)
ANOTHER KOREAN INVOLVED IN KIDNAP?
For his part, Dela Rosa said Sta. Isabel only surrendered right after the DZMM interview on Thursday. This, despite the PNP chief's order that Sta. Isabel be placed under restrictive custody of the PNP Headquarters Support Service last Sunday.
"He doesn't want to be placed under restrictive custody. I don't know what he's hiding," he said.
He also cited information from the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group that the car used in the kidnapping was registered under the name of Sta. Isabel's wife.
The case has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and local media as an example of corrupt policemen expanding their illegal activities after being given freedoms by President Rodrigo Duterte to prosecute his war against drugs.
Dela Rosa said he also has a lead that another Korean national may have been involved in the kidnapping.
"Ito ngang mga problemang ito, yung mga victimizing Koreans, Indian-nationals, karamihan ng mga ito, nangyayari with the participation, involvement din ng mga kapwa Koreano, kapwa nila Indian. Yun, yung mga Chinese, sila-sila rin ang nagki-kidnap-an. Ginagamit itong mga pulis na scalawag na ginagamit sa pangingidnap, yung nilalapitan," he said.
He said the motive may have originally been to kill the victim, but the scalawag cops may have thought to extort money from the family first by asking for ransom.
Dela Rosa said it is doubtful that Jee would have been freed despite the paying of ransom especially since another foreigner was allegedly involved in the abduction.
"Kung bibitawan nila yun, ngayon ay nakauwi na yun. Baka tinuluyan na, lalo’t may involved na Koreano rin. Hindi natin alam, baka personal grudges yun," he said.
(If they were going to release him, he would be home by now. They may have done him in especially with another Korean involved. We don't know, it could have been a personal grudge.) With Agence France Presse