crimes in the Philippines

DOJ puts Julian Ongpin in immigration lookout list

Jairo Bolledo
(2nd UPDATE) PNP chief General General Guillermo Eleazar orders the Ilocos Region police to investigate the death of artist Bree Jonson in La Union

The Department of Justice (DOJ) put Julian Ongpin on the immigration lookout list after the local prosecutor decided to temporarily release him pending an investigation of his case. 

Ongpin is the boyfriend and companion of artist Bree Jonson, who was found dead in a La Union resort over the weekend.

Ongpin was arrested by the police after he tested positive for a drug test and cocaine was seized inside their room. 

Jonson is a renowned Filipino contemporary artist. Her boyfriend, Julian, is the son of prominent businessman and former Trade Secretary Roberto Ongpin.  

“Considering that charges for violation of the dangerous drugs law have been filed against Julian Ongpin, the DOJ will issue an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) against Mr. Ongpin,” said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in a message to reporters.

On Tuesday, September 21, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Guillermo Eleazar said the La Union Prosecutor’s Office temporarily released Ongpin while the probe was ongoing. According to the prosecutor’s office, it was deemed proper to hold a full-blown probe into the incident. 

According Guevarra, the immigration lookout was a request from Jonson’s mother, Sally. An Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) cannot bar anyone from leaving the country because only courts can issue Hold Departure Orders (HDO). 

With this, Guevarra said they were considering requesting precautionary HDOs from courts, which prosecutors are allowed to request under recent rules when it comes to pending complaints.

“The DOJ may further consider asking the court for the issuance of a precautionary hold-departure order depending on the progress of the preliminary investigation,” added the justice secretary.  

Meanwhile, Eleazar said he also ordered an investigation into Jonson’s death. According to Eleazar, he already instructed Ilocos Region police chief Brigadier General Emmanuel Peralta to investigate all possible circumstances that led to Jonson’s death. 

Based on the initial police report, Jonson’s body was found at the Flotsam Jetsam Resort in San Juan town in La Union on September 18. Ongpin claimed his girlfriend’s death was a case of suicide. 

After Ongpin tested positive for illegal drugs, drug-related complaints were filed against him. The police also seized 12.6 grams of cocaine inside their room, as identified by the local crime laboratory.   

Jonson’s cause of death has yet to be identified pending the conduct of autopsy. Eleazar added that he also ordered all PNP units to ensure the availability of Ongpin during the course of investigation. – With reports from Lian Buan/Rappler.com

(Editor’s note: In an earlier version of the story, the headline erroneously said Julian Ongpin was named a suspect in Bree Jonson’s death. This has been corrected to say he was facing possible drug charges.)

Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.