Suspect in Korean’s slay to be transferred to NBI custody

Jun A. Malig
(UPDATED) Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr of the Angeles City court also grants the motion of SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel and two other suspects to order the justice department to reinvestigate the case of Jee Ick Joo

LEAVING COURT. SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel is escorted from the Angeles City Hall of Justice. Photo by Jun Malig/Rappler

ANGELES CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – A local court on Monday, January 30, granted the motion of a main suspect in the kidnap and murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo to be transferred to the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation. 

Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 granted the motion of SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel, who earlier expressed fear that his life is threatened if he stays in the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

Sta Isabel is one of the cops implicated in the abduction and murder of Jee. An NBI probe found that the businessman was strangled to death inside a vehicle right inside Camp Crame, the PNP headquarters. The owner of a funeral parlor in Caloocan City later revealed that the body was brought to him for cremation under an assumed Filipino name

Pangilinan also granted the motion of 3 of the 7 suspects – Sta Isabel, SPO4 Roy Villegas, and Ramon Yalung – to order the justice department to reinvestigate the case, and to postpone the arraignment, which was originally set for Monday.  

Sta Isabel and Villegas arrived at the Angeles City Hall of Justice past 1:00 pm, escorted by officers of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group and guarded by scores of local policemen, including some in military-type fatigues and carrying long firearms.

Both Sta Isabel and Villegas were wearing police bulletproof vests.

Another suspect, Ramon Yalung, who was detained at the Angeles City District Jail, was presented to the court. He was wearing a yellow Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) inmate t-shirt.

Lawyer Hernani Barrios, a former state prosecutor who represented Villegas, and Yalung’s lawyer Venancio Rivera III, adopted PAO legal counsels’ motions for the deferment of Monday’s arraignment and for the reinvestigation of the case on kidnapping and killing of Jee.

Barrios told the court his client, Villegas, wanted to remain in the custody of the PNP in Camp Crame. Rivera also cited Yalung’s wish to remain at the BJMP-managed district jail in this city.

Senior State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera did not object to any of the 3 motions filed by the suspects’ lawyers.

Interviewed by reporters, Navera said the case “really needs to be re-investigated.” Navera cited the surrender to the NBI of Gerardo Gregorio “Ding” Santiago, the owner of Gream Funeral Services where the body of Jee was brought by suspects before it was cremated, and NBI informant Jerry Omlang, who was allegedly among the men who abducted the Korean businessman from his home in Friendship Plaza Subdivision here on October 18, 2016.

In granting the omnibus motion of the accused, Judge Pangilinan directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) “to conduct reinvestigation and to submit the resolution thereon within 60 days from today (January 30).” Pangilinan also directed the PNP “to turn over the custody of SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel to the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila, immediately upon receipt hereof (of the order).”

Last Wednesday, January 25, Sta Isabel, through the Public Attorney’s Office, filed an urgent motion before Pangilinan’s sala to be transferred to the NBI. He said he no longer feels safe inside Camp Crame after implicating “powerful” officials in the case.

Sta Isabel had linked higher police officials to Jee’s case, including former chief of PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) Special Interdiction Office Rafael Dumlao and Senior Superintendent Allan Macapagal of the PNP’s Anti-Kidnapping Group.

The Senate is conducting its own investigation of the incident, while President Rodrigo Duterte announced late Sunday night a P5-million bounty for Dumlao, whom he believes is the mastermind of the crime. 

“Since accused herein is a member of the Philippine National Police, detained at the institution’s detention facility, he fears for his life’s security … as he continuously receives death threats,” stated Sta Isabel’s plea.

“Accused will be safer in the custody of the NBI than with the PNP considering that this case not only involves him but also several high-ranking and powerful officials who are still connected with the PNP organization.”

Judge Pangilinan set the date for the arraignment of the case for April 

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