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Court orders arrest of cops, 5 others in Korean's murder

MANILA, Philippines – A Pampanga court has issued warrants of arrest against two policemen and 5 others tagged in the abduction and killing of South Korean businessman  Jee Ick Joo.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Friday, January 20, that Angeles Regional Trial Court Branch 58 Presiding Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr issued the warrants of arrest after the Department of Justice filed kidnapping for ransom with homicide charges against the suspects in connection with Jee's case.

They are Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta Isabel and Senior Police Officer 4 Roy Villegas, Ramon Yalung, and 4 people identified only under the aliases "Pulis," "Jerry," "Sir Dumlao" and "Ding."

Aguirre said Sta Isabel was under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation, and would be transferred to Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, once the arrest warrant was served.

Responding to questions, Aguirre said the DOJ was not yet considering Sta Isabel as a possible state witness in the case, especially as he had been identified as the alleged killer of Jee.

"The investigation is still ongoing. In the first place we still don't know because any application for such will have to be assessed by the WPP. We have to determine first if he is not the most guilty," he said.

Villegas, one of the suspects, had claimed that it was Sta Isabel who killed Jee.

Sta Isabel's wife, Jinky, met with Aguirre on Friday, according to media reports but the justice department did not reveal details of the meeting.

A preliminary investigation of the DOJ showed that Jee was strangled to death in Camp Crame on October 18, 2016, just hours after he was allegedly taken by the police officers and their accomplices from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga.

The suspects reportedly served a fake search warrant on Jee, whom they alleged was involved in illegal drugs. They also allegedly demanded millions of pesos in ransom payment from Jee's family weeks after his death.

Following the incident, the South Korean government announced its plan to bust fake arrest warrants served to its nationals in the Philippines.

Senators said the brazen incident – involving cops who took custody of Jee on the pretext of an investigation into his alleged drug links – was a big "wake up call" for  PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

The Duterte administration has been waging an intense war on drugs that has led to over 6,000 deaths in 6 months, prompting criticism that the policy has emboldened the police and created a culture of impunity. (READ: In NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs') – Rappler.com