Cop involved in abduction of S. Korean businessman can be state witness — Aguirre

By , on January 18, 2017

MANILA –Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said that SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, the police officer who surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) due to his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a South Korean national in Angeles City, Pampanga can be 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 to the crime and pinpointed other police officers involved.

”Possible kasi siya nakakaalam ng lahat, hindi natuloy statement niya kasi nagtampo yung lawyer. Nag-testify na meron ng affidavit pero given to another hindi pa sa NBI nagsalita na pero hindi pa narereduce sa written statement dumating yung lawyer umalis nagtampo kay Sta. Isabel kaya hindi natuloy,” Aguirre told reporters in phone interview.

Aguirre added that Sta. Isabel, who is currently under protective custody of the NBI, has given details to probers during interrogation.

The Justice Secretary however refused to give any details on Sta. Isabel’s statements so as not to jeopardize the ongoing NBI probe.

He noted that one of a “higher official” in the PNP has been implicated by the policeman.

Aguirre also revealed the Embassy of the Republic of Korea has sought his assistance in the case, adding that he would respond to the letter and give updates to the embassy on the ongoing NBI probe.

Five employees of Gream Funeral Services in Bagbag, Caloocan City are now with the NBI and are undergoing questioning after it was confirmed that missing Korean national was taken to them on the same day of his abduction 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 at the funeral parlor the same day he was abducted on Oct. 18, 2016.

However, no body was recovered at the funeral parlor. Jee’s body has been cremated last year.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said it is set to submit for resolution the kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaints filed by the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) against the suspects in Jee’s kidnapping in Angeles City, Pampanga last year.

Aguirre has designated Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas to handle the case.

Torrevillas replaced Assistant State Prosecutor Hjalmar Quintana, who earlier inhibited from the complaints for kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention in relation to the disappearance of Jee.

Aguirre said that during the two preliminary investigation any of the respondents did not appear so the prosecutor decided to submit the case for resolution.

Aguirre vowed to expedite the resolution of the complaints regarding the incident, which gained attraction as the suspects allegedly carried out the crime by doing a search operation in relation to the government’s war on drugs.

Aside from Sta. Isabel, there are eight other implicated in the abduction of Jee.

Aguirre said that one of the suspects is a retired policeman who has already moved to Canada.

The DOJ Chief said they will also coordinate with the Interpol to locate the said suspect.

Aguirre will issue an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against the suspects.

Choi Kyunghin, wife of Jee, 53, said his husband was forcibly taken by eight armed men on Oct. 18 from his residence and has not been located until now.

His family paid PHP5 million ransom money on Oct. 31 but he was never released.

The abductors asked for an additional PHP4 million but failed to produce a proof of life prompting the family to seek the police’s assistance.

Choi has already offered a PHP100,000 reward for anyone who could give information on the whereabouts of her husband.