MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The owner of the funeral home where the remains of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo were brought, has promised to "tell all" in the controversial case that has implicated police officers in the government's war on drugs.
Former cop Gerardo Santiago arrived in Manila from Toronto, Canada, at 6 am on Friday, January 27, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said in a news briefing where he presented Santiago to the media.
Aguirre said Santiago has been placed under the protective custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) "because of the threats to his life."
The justice chief said Santiago reportedly received death threats from two groups when he was still in Canada.
"He started sending feelers for his return to my office via trusted intermediaries last week. He requested that he be secured upon his arrival," Aguirre said.
NBI Deputy Director for Forensic Investigation Services Ferdinand Lavin said the DOJ instructed the NBI to fetch Santiago at the airport Friday morning.
"I can see that he's very much afraid of his safety. He promised to tell all," Lavin said
The PNP and the NBI appear to be clashing on the controversial case as the latter scrutinizes evidence that could challenge the version of police headquarters about what happened to the Korean national.
Santiago is a person of interest in the kidnap-slay case of Jee.
Jee was kidnapped from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga, on October 18, 2016, and was murdered inside Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, on the same day. His killers supposedly brought his remains to Santiago's Gream Funeral Services in Bagbaguin, Caloocan City.
'No reason to hide'
Aguirre that the return of Santiago was a "most welcome development" in the case.
"We assure the Filipino people and our Korean friends that earnest efforts will be exerted to bring the real perpetrators to justice," he said.
Santiago, upon his return, explained to NBI officials that he did not flee the investigation and that his trip to Canada was long scheduled.
"Kaya ako bumalik dito, wala akong kasalanan. Kung may kasalanan ako, di ako babalik sa Pilipinas; magtatago ako sa Canada (I came back because I didn't do anything wrong. If I did something wrong, I wouldn't have returned to the Philippines; I would have gone in hiding in Canada)," he said at the news briefing.
Santiago declined to respond to other questions, saying he was still waiting for his lawyer.
Santiago is currently the chairman of Barangay 165 in Caloocan, but he filed for a leave of absence on January 10 on the same day that Jee's wife went to the PNP for help. Immigration records show he left the country on January 11.
Santiago and Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta Isabel once served together at the Northern Police District.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that staff of Santiago's funeral parlor brought Jee's remains to a crematory the day after the murder.
Santiago's staff, according to the crematory, posed as Jee's relative and identified the dead person as a Filipino national named "Ruamar Salvador." The death certificate, as well as a health permit from the city hall, both requisites for cremation, appear to be fake. – Rappler.com