MANILA—Funeral home owner Gerardo Santiago who is being linked to the kidnap-slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo returned home from Canada Friday morning “to clear his name”.
Santiago arrived at about 6 a.m. Friday on board Philippine Airlines (PR No. 119) from Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada. He was fetched by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents at the airport.
“Kaya po umuwi ako, wala akong kasalanan. Kung ako po may kasalanan hindi po ako babalik dito sa Pilipinas. Magtatago ako sa Canada. Kaya hinaharap ko ‘tong kaso,” Santiago told reporters when presented to the media by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and NBI Director Dante Gierran at the NBI headquarters in Manila.
Santiago, a retired police officer, is the owner of Gream Funeral Homes in Barangay (village) Bagbaguin in Caloocan City where the body Jee was taken and was said to have been cremated. He left for Canada last January 11.
Santiago said he is willing to cooperate in the investigation.
According to one of the accused, Senior Police Officer 4 (SP04) Roy Villegas, Santiago was paid PHP30,000 and a golf set.
While his name was not mentioned in the DOJ resolution where a case for kidnapping for ransom with homicide has been filed in a Pampanga court, an alias “Ding” was mentioned in the complaint.
Aguirre confirmed that “Ding” is Santiago.
Aguirre said Santiago started sending feelers for his return via trusted intermediaries last week and requested that he be secured upon his arrival.
“Preliminarily, because of the threats to his life, he will be placed under the protective custody of the NBI,” Aguirre told reporters.
He said Santiago claimed that he had been getting death threats from two groups but Aguirre refused to give details as to the people behind these groups.
The DoJ chief said the return of Santiago augurs well for the collective search for the truth behind the dastardly act committed against the person of the late Mr. Jee Ick Joo.
“Merong mga loose ends ang kaso kaya malaking help niya tungkol sa pag-explain dun sa mga unanswered questions sa investigation. It is a most welcome development,” he said.
Asked if Santiago can be placed under Witness Protection Program, Aguirre said “he asked the NBI to be placed under the WPP of the government, it is imperative that he executes a statement kasi before anyone could be put under the custody of the WPP, dapat may statement ka at the WPP and DOJ will assess your application.
The DoJ chief said they will give Santiago the opportunity to get a lawyer before executing an affidavit.
“Now, since I asked him kung may abogado na siya, sabi niya wala pa. So I believe before we can take any statement from Mr. Santiago dapat meron muna siyang abogado. Binibigyan natin siya ng chance na kumuha ng sariling lawyer before a statement can be taken from him, otherwise baka maging inadmissible yung evidence o statement na ibibigay niya without the assistance of his counsel of choice,” Aguirre explained.