DOJ charges Dumlao as principal in Korean businessman's slay

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed kidnapping and homicide charges against Police Superintendent Rafael Dumlao III, tagging him as "principal" in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo 6 months ago.

In a resolution released to media  and filed before the Angeles Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Tuesday, April 18, the DOJ panel also cleared National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officials of any liability in the business executive's kidnapping and death. The NBI is the DOJ's investigative arm.

Branded no less than by President Rodrigo Duterte as the "mastermind" in Jee's kidnap-slay, Dumlao was part of the now-defunct Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, which the Duterte administration established to take the lead in its controversial war on drugs.

Jee's death in October 2016 shook the police establishment since he was kidnapped in the guise of an anti-drug operation and was killed inside Camp Crame, headquarters of the PNP.

It also pitted the PNP against the NBI, as both agencies offered different versions of the crime. 

The killing embarrassed Duterte, who suspended the PNP-led war on drugs. He lifted the suspension a month later. (READ: Jee Ick Joo killed to 'silence' him on cops' extortion of Koreans

The DOJ also filed kidnapping and homicide charges against Jerry Omlangwho confessed to being part of the group that kidnapped Jee, and Gerardo Santiago, owner of the funeral parlor which received Jee's remains.

The DOJ affirmed the charges against policemen Ricky Sta Isabel and Roy Villegas, who are already detained.

The DOJ arecommended the filing of separate kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against Sta Isabel, Dumlao, Omlang and Villegas in relation to the abduction of Jee's housemaid Marisa Dawis Morquicho. The same individuals will also be charged with carnapping in relation to Jee's Ford Explorer that was used for the businessman's abduction.

NBI officials cleared

The DOJ dismissed charges against several officials of the NBI for lack of probable cause.

It was Dumlao who had linked the NBI to Jee's kidnapping and death.

The panel cleared the following of kidnapping, homicide, robbery,carnapping, falsification of public document and obstruction ofjustice charges:


The DOJ accepted Sta Isabel's testimonies that provided "inextricable link" to Dumlao. The panel gave weight to Sta Isabel and Villegas' story that Dumlao had attempted to bribe them with a promise that he would eventually also get them off the hook.

"Villegas quotes Dumlao telling him, "tahimik ka lang, akong bahala (just keep quiet, I'll take care of it). If it were true that Dumlao had no participation in the planning and execution of the kidnapping, it is indeed puzzling why he would go to the extreme lengths of attempting to suborn Villegas to clear him from the latter's previous statements," the panel writes in their 51-page resolution.

The DOJ panel also concluded that funeral parlor owner Santiago, who is also said to be a friend of Sta Isabel, should be held as an accessory to the crime.

"The series of acts performed by Santiago clearly prove his ultimate objective to conceal, destroy and dispose the body of the victim, one of the physical evidence needed to establish the fact of death," the panel said.

The panel cleared Santiago's employees of criminal liability because the staff were merely doing what they were told to as part of their jobs.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) earlier reported that Santiago's funeral owner had arranged Jee's cremation using fake papers that identified Jee as a Filipino by the name of "Ruamar Salvador."

The panel did not recommend charges against maid Morquicho despite suspicions that she could have been working with the group to kidnap her boss.

Unsubstantiated allegations

The NBI had earlier reshuffled the organization, reassigning implicated officials to give way to the investigation.

Dumlao had testified that agents under then NBI Deputy Director Diaz were part of the crime. Dumlao said that when Sta Isabel was attempting to get him on board the plan, the latter was talking over the phone with Diaz.

Diaz also supposedly said that NBI officials Bolivar and Yap would take care of them should there be any complication.

As Dumlao's story goes, Sta Isabel enticed him to join the plan by saying that whatever successful result it will yield will be credited to the Philippine National Police or the PNP's Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG), whose Special Interdiction Office Dumlao used to head.

"Dumlao's accusations against (the NBI officials) are complicated yet unsubstantiaed and lacks corroboration. Their defense of denial has more evidentiary weight," the panel wrote in the resolution.

They added: "To us, the tangled web spun by Dumlao is incredible and a mere afterthought after he was already pinpointed by Sta Isabel, Villegas and Omlang as one of the planners of the kidnapping."

The DOJ's reinvestigation also took an interesting turn when Jee's widow, Choi Kyung-jin, told President Duterte in a letter that she no longer trusts the NBI to be partial in the investigation.

"It must be stressed that there is no public gain in prosecuting persons without probable cause. In the same measure, there is no evidentiary gain for the prosecution to charge factually innocent persons along with the obviously guilty ones," the panel said.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.