MANILA - Embattled SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel is set to file a motion for the re-investigation of his alleged involvement in the October abduction and killing of Korean businessman Ick-joo Jee.
Alejandro Jose Pallugna, Sta. Isabel's lawyer, said the motion stems from the failure of an initial investigation by the Philippine National Police on ranking officials allegedly involved in the crime.
"We are filing a motion for reinvestigation of the case because as declared by my client Ricky Sta. Isabel and even his wife, there are other persons, apparently superior officers, who were not implicated during the charge because it was initiated by the PNP," Pallugna told radio DZMM.
"But now that NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) has gotten in the picture, several pieces of evidence which are incriminating against senior officers have come up. The number ng persons included in the original information filed at the RTC of Pampanga is very limited."
Sta. Isabel, along with several others, are accused of kidnapping Jee in his home in Angeles, Pampanga on October 18, 2016 under the guise of a legitimate anti-drug operation.
A member of the group who took Jee accused Sta. Isabel of strangling the Korean inside Camp Crame and bringing his remains to a funeral parlor owned by a former police officer.
Sta. Isabel has denied killing Jee, saying that the murder happened when he left Crame to release the househelp who was also kidnapped .
"He was ordered by a senior officer na: 'Kami na ang bahala dito sa Koreano. Patayin mo at itapon mo iyang babae.' (We'll take of the Korean. Kill and dispose of the woman)," his lawyer said.
Instead of killing the woman, Sta. Isabel freed the helper before going back to Crame. It was then that he discovered that Jee was already dead, Pallugna said.
"When he came back, he was asked to contact the funeral parlor because he saw the Korean dead already at that time. Hindi niya po nakitang pinatay (He did not see the murder) because at the moment that he went to dispose and actually let go of the woman."
Authorities earlier said the kidnappers demanded a ransom from the victim's wife and she initially paid P5 million, thinking he was still alive.
TRANSFER TO PAMPANGA
In the interview, Pallugna said the appeal would give Sta. Isabel a chance to submit a counter affidavit in connection with the case.
The lawyer said the DOJ conducted its first hearing on Sta. Isabel's case last December 1, but the handling prosecutor inhibited from the case so the proceedings were reset to February 8 and 13.
But even before the preliminary investigation could resume and before Sta. Isabel could submit his counter affidavit, the DOJ allegedly resolved the case while a court released an arrest warrant for the accused cop.
"We were surprised when the arrest warrant was released last Friday. The regular preliminary investigation has not been completed yet. Precisely po, that is the basis of our motion for reinvestigation, to afford Ricky Sta. Isabel to file counter affidavit," Pallugna said.
"Even until now, he has yet to officially file a counter affidavit at the Department of Justice but there is already a resolution of the case and the filing of information at the court. We didn't have any copy of the resolution even up to now, only the information that we were able to obtain from the court."
He said the police official will also file another motion for the policeman to be placed under DOJ custody.
Sta. Isabel is currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center and is set to be transferred to a Pampanga detention center.
"The transfer to Pampanga is dangerous because he's a policeman and the other supposed witnesses also come from Pampanga and there are also common criminals who have had brushes with the law and policemen in the past," he said.
The police have come under intense scrutiny as the frontline troops in Duterte's efforts to eradicate illegal drugs in society, with human rights groups accusing them of mass extrajudicial killings.
Police have reported killing 2,250 drug suspects since Duterte assumed office, with 3,710 others murdered by unknown suspects who at times have left signs at the crime scenes accusing their victims of being drug dealers or addicts.
Duterte has repeatedly promised to protect police from prosecution if they are charged with murder for killing a drug suspect, leading to fears corrupt officers feel they have a green light to commit crimes in the name of the drug war.
A Senate hearing is set to tackle the controversy on Thursday. -- With Agence France-Presse