MANILA, Philippines – A Pampanga court has granted the petition for bail of the police officer tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte himself as the mastermind in the abduction and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in 2016.
In granting bail to Police Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Dumlao III, Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 56 Presiding Judge Irin Zenaida Buan said the prosecution failed to establish that the police officer conspired with others to kill the businessman in 2016. (READ: Jee Ick Joo case: Tangled webs, inconsistent stories)
“Sifting through the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, the court holds that none of them proved a particular act or acts of the accused Dumlao that clearly established his complicity in the abduction and killing of the victim Jee Ick Joo,” the court said in its 32-page resolution.
The court denied the motion for bail of two others accused in the case – former cop Ricky Sta Isabel and Jerry Omlang, an errand boy at the National Bureau of Investigation custodial center.
“Considering the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, the court holds that the same established the direct acts committed by the accused SPO3 Sta Isabel and Jerry Omlang which points to a unity of criminal purpose and design, thus, evidencing conspiracy between the said accused to commit the crimes charged,” the court ruled.
“The said testimonies clearly paint a picture that crimes were in fact committed and that accused Sta Isabel and Omlang directly participated in the commission of the same,” it added.
In allowing Dumlao to post bail, the court cited the testimonies of Jee’s wife, Choi Kyung-jin; and house helper Marisa Dawis-Maorquicho who did not mention the participation of Dumlao in the crime.
The court also did not give weight to the testimony of Police Corporal Christopher Baldovino who claimed that he heard the phone conversation between Dumlao and Sta Isabel, when the formersupposedly asked Sta Isabel about the October 4, 2016 operation.
“Neither can be inferred from the said conversation per se that the accused Dumlao already agreed or planned with his co-accused the abduction and killing of Jee Ick Joo on October 18, 2016,” the court said.
The trial court set bail for Dumlao at P300,000 each for kidnapping for ransom with homicide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and carnapping.
The DOJ filed kidnapping and homicide charges against Dumlao and tagged him as the principal suspect in the case in April 2017.
The charges against Dumlao were filed 3 months after Duterte claimed in a televised press conference that the cop was the mastermind in the abduction and murder of Jee, and even offered a P5-million bounty for his capture "dead or alive" if he did not surrender. At the time the press conference was being held, however, Dumlao was already back in the custody of the Philippine National Police.
Following the court’s decision, the prosecution led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera filed an urgent ex-parte motion for the court to issue a hold departure against Dumlao, on the argument that he was a flight risk.
The prosecution filed the motion even before it received an order from the court in relation to Dumlao’s petition for bail.
“As a precautionary measure in the event that the petition for bail of the accused will be granted by this Honorable Court, the People herein files this urgent ex-parte motion for hold departure order and request that the same be immediately acted upon by this Honorable Court,” the prosecution’s motion read.
He said that with the exception of funeral parlor owner Gerardo Santiago, all the accused were charged with capital offenses, which carried the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The prosecution also cited Dumlao’s status as an active member of the police force, as well as his training.
“Convincingly, it also evinces that he has the means to travel and seek refuge in another country. In the event that accused will be granted bail, he will clearly be a flight risk,” the prosecution told the court.
The Department of Justice had earlier filed charges against Santiago, the owner of the Gream Funeral Services where the body of Jee was brought; and Police Executive Master Sergeant Roy Villegas in the kidnapping for ransom with homicide case.
The prosecution later tapped Villegas as a state witness while Santiago was charged as merely an accessory.
Jee was killed right inside Camp Crame in October 2016. He was abducted from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga.
His abduction and murder has been a source of embarrassment for the Duterte administration, which had vowed to fight crime and rid the police force of corrupt cops. In January 2017 – 6 months after the incident – Malacañang issued a public apology over the incident.
In June 2018, Duterte said he was ashamed after South Korean President Moon Jae-in raised the case of Jee during their bilateral meeting when he was in Seoul for an official visit early that month. – Rappler.com