Cop suspects in Korean kidnap-slay brought to court

PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The two policemen who are suspects in the kidnapping and killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo were presented to the court in Angeles City on Tuesday, January 24, reportedly upon the insistence of a judge.

Last Monday, January 23, officers of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) in Camp Crame returned the warrant of arrest issued by Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr. against SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and SPO4 Roy Villegas with a written explanation that the two suspects are already under the custody of the police unit.

But it was learned from sources that Pangilinan refused to accept the warrant he had issued without the personal appearance of Sta. Isabel and Villegas.

Earlier that day, Rappler was told by a staff of the RTC Branch 58’s clerk of court that the presentation of the persons who are subject of an arrest warrant is necessary when law enforcers return the warrant to the court.

Around 3 pm Tuesday, officers of the PNP-AKG returned to the Angeles City court bringing with them Sta. Isabel and Villegas to present the 2 policemen before the judge.

After waiting for more than an hour inside the clerk of court’s office, Judge Pangilinan, who had to finish hearing another case in his sala, faced Sta. Isabel and Villegas.

The judge had allowed the 2 policemen to remain under the custody of the PNP-AKG for security reasons.

A source in Angeles City who heard the conversation between Judge Pangilinan, the PNP-AKG officers and the 2 cop suspects, said Sta. Isabel wanted to be transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is set to make its own investigation into the kidnapping and killing of Jee.

It was learned that the police security escorts of Sta. Isabel and Villegas, who were both assigned to the PNP-Anti Illegal Drugs Group in Camp Crame, always kept the 2 apart to prevent them from possibly harming each other.

In his sworn statement before the Department of Justice (DOJ), Villegas said he participated in the surveillance operation led by Sta. Isabel against Jee, thinking it was a legitimate anti-illegal drugs operation, and in what he allegedly thought as the arrest of the South Korean on October 18, 2016.

Villegas also told DOJ state prosecutors that he allegedly saw how Sta. Isabel “strangling and killing the victim” and hearing him calling a certain “Ding” who agreed to receive Jee’s body in exchange for P30,000 and a golf set. He said he was among those who brought the South Korean’s body to a funeral parlor.

He said it was too late when he realized that what they did was not a legitimate police operation and that he obeyed Sta. Isabel’s instruction “for fear of his life and that of his family.”

Sta. Isabel, for his part, has denied killing Jee.

The DOJ recommended on January 17 the filing of kidnapping for ransom with homicide against Sta. Isabel, Villegas, Ramon Yalung, and 4 other John Does with aliases “Pulis”, “Jerry”, “Sir Dumlao” and “Ding”. –