Dela Rosa: ‘Narco general’ is ‘boss’ of suspect in Korean kidnapping

Bea Cupin
Dela Rosa: ‘Narco general’ is ‘boss’ of suspect in Korean kidnapping
The PNP chief also calls on the public to stop using the term 'Tokhang for ransom,' saying it 'hurts' the police force

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, January 16, said a retired police general with alleged ties to the drug trade was the one who helped another cop get a post in the anti-narcotics group.

The cop that Dela Rosa was referring to is Senior Police Officer 3 (SPO3) Ricky Sta Isabel, who is accused of being behind the kidnapping of South Korean businessman Ick Joo Yee in Angeles City back in October 2016.

“[Sta Isabel] has a ‘boss’ who wants to sabotage the war on drugs so he made sure to put him in the anti-illegal drugs group. This ‘boss’ is a saboteur,” Dela Rosa told reporters in Camp Crame. (READ: Manhunt while in Crame: The confusion over SPO3 Sta Isabel)

Dela Rosa said the retired official was among the so-called “narco generals” earlier named by President Rodrigo Duterte. However, he refused to divulge this retired general’s name.

The 5 retired and active police generals accused by Duterte of having ties to the illicit trade include retired Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, retired Chief Superintendent Vicente Loot, Director Joel Pagdilao, Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio, and Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz.

The PNP chief said Sta Isabel once tried to join the Anti-Kidnapping Group but was rejected.

Sta Isabel, who has been in the police force for more than two decades, denies the allegations against him. He is currently being investigated by the police.

But top police officials insist they have evidence against Sta Isabel – among them, security footage from the abduction showing a van owned by Sta Isabel’s wife. The policeman is supposedly the one who uses the van.

Despite having no warrants issued against him, Sta Isabel has surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

There are at least 8 more suspects in the kidnapping of Ick, including several current and retired policemen. Dela Rosa said two are active cops while another is a retired officer. The retired policeman is a barangay (village) captain in Metro Manila but has since reportedly fled to Canada.

Again, Dela Rosa declined to name these policemen.

Sta Isabel and his cohorts supposedly used the police’s ongoing war on drugs as a cover-up for the kidnapping. The case has been labeled an example of “Tokhang for ransom.”

“Tokhang” is the police’s knock-and-plead operation to make drug personalities surrender even without warrants of arrest.

Dela Rosa on Monday said it was unfair for people to use the term “Tokhang for ransom” because it “hurts” the police force.

“Don’t associate the [kidnapping] with Tokhang because the intention here is to bring down our war on drugs. Instead of us winning the war on drugs, the public’s trust is lost because of the use of the word ‘Tokhang.’ That’s not Tokhang,” said Dela Rosa, who conceptualized “Oplan Tokhang” back when he was Davao City police chief.

Dela Rosa has led the police in Duterte’s popular but controversial war on drugs. Police have accounted for more than one million drug personalities in 6 months, most of them through “Oplan Tokhang.”

But over 6,000 deaths have been linked to the anti-drug campaign – more than 2,000 of these during police operations. The rest are called “deaths under investigation” or summary-style executions with supposed links to illegal drugs. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.