MANILA, Philippines – The wife of a police officer tagged in the kidnapping and murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo surfaced to show evidence of her husband's innocence, presenting a tangled tale of crime that has raised questions about abuses committed in the name of the government's war on drugs.
It also sets the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on a potential collision course as the latter scrutinizes evidence that could challenge the version of police headquarters about what happened to the Korean national.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said an audio recording of a phone conversation and several photos presented to him by Jinky Sta Isabel, wife of Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta Isabel, could prove he is being framed for the killing of the Korean national right inside the police headquarters, Camp Crame.
When asked about the possibility of the PNP and the NBI probes contradicting each other, Aguirre told Rappler in a text message on Sunday, "It might be too early to say, the probability of different findings between the two police agencies is very probable."
Meeting with PO3 Sta Isabel's wife
Aguirre met with Jinky Sta Isabel on Friday, January 20, Aguirre told dzBB in an interview Sunday morning, January 22.
"Noong kausap ko 'yung misis sa DOJ noong Friday [January 20], sinabi niya na itinatanggi ng kanyang asawa na siya ang nag-kidnap at pumatay sa Korean," Aguirre said. (When I was speaking with the wife at the DOJ on Friday, she told me that her husband was denying involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the Korean.)
PO3 Sta Isabel, who was tagged by a fellow cop for killing Jee, sought protective custody from the NBI following "surrender or die" threats from PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa. He was turned over to the PNP but only after he completed his affidavit denying allegations against him. (READ: Manhunt while in Crame: The confusion over PO3 Sta Isabel)
The police headquarters claimed "damning evidence" against Sta Isabel, who is supposedly working for a "narco-general" with the intention of sabotaging the PNP and its war on drugs.
"Bago dalhin sa PNP si Sta Isabel, nakagawa muna siya ng isang salaysay na siya ay na-frame-up lamang at walang kinalaman sa pag-kidnap," Aguirre told dzBB. (Before he was turned over to the PNP, he was able to complete an affidavit that said he was framed up, and had nothing to do with the kidnapping.)
Evidence of innocence?
On Saturday, January 21, Jinky herself presented her proof to journalist Henry Omaga-Diaz in an interview during his program on dzMM to refute the PNP's claim of "damning evidence" against her husband.
Jinky spoke of an alleged recording of her phone conversation with her husband's superior, Colonel Rafael Dumlao, while he was supposedly instructing her to persuade her husband to admit to the killing of Jee. She was supposedly promised that the PNP would make sure her husband would eventually be released.
The recording was submitted to the NBI, Aguirre said.
Aguirre said photos could also show that the license plate of Sta Isabel's Toyota Hilux – the one supposedly caught on CCTV being used to conduct surveillance and the eventual kidnapping of the Korean – may have been illegally duplicated to frame Sta Isabel for the crime.
"Kung totoo ito at talagang mayroong 'kambal plaka', ibig sabihin pinag-planuhin nang malalim," Aguirre told dzBB. (If it is true that the car license plate was duplicated illegally, it means this was planned very well.)
'TokHang for ransom'
The kidnapping of Jee exploded in the news after it was reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a case of "TokHang for ransom", where a group of men led by cops supposedly took Jee and house helper Marisa Morquicho from his home in Pampanga.
"TokHang for ransom" is a play on the PNP program "Oplan TokHang" – which comes from the Visayan root words "toktok" (knock) and "hangyo" (request). TokHang refers to the PNP strategy to go house to house and convince drug pushers and users to surrender.
Morquicho, who was immediately released, was told that her boss was involved in illegal drugs. Sta Isabel and Dumlao work for the police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group.
But Jee's wife claimed the kidnappers demanded P5 million in ransom, which she paid, but her husband was not released.
Officials of the Korean embassy sought the help of Dela Rosa, who ordered a manhunt against the cops who were reportedly identified using CCTV footage of the kidnapping.
Confusion surrounded Sta Isabel's case when Dela Rosa claimed he was missing. But he was apparently moved and had been reporting to another PNP unit, the PNP Headquarters Support Service's Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (PHAU).
The NBI later announced that Jee was found dead – information that again caused some confusion in the PNP which could not immediately verify the report. Dela Rosa himself would shortly confirm that Jee was killed inside the police headquarters.
This may have been the first tell-tale sign that the PNP and the NBI could go against each other in the investigation.
Cops planted evidence?
It was a fellow cop, Senior Police Officer 4 Roy Villegas, who accused Sta Isabel of killing Jee. In his affidavit, Villegas said he heard Sta Isabel talking to "Sir Dumlao" and overheard him say, "Sir, ang alam ko ay kilala 'nyo ang mga taong ito dahil ang pagkakaalam ko ay sanction 'nyo ito." (Sir, what I know is, you know these people because what I know is you sanctioned this.)
Crame also claimed that Sta Isabel was working for a "narco general" to create a scenario where the public becomes doubtful about the government's war on drugs.
Villegas said it was Sta Isabel himself who brought the packing tape and surgical gloves that covered the head of Jee. Sta Isabel supposedly later called a certain "Ding" who agreed to take the body for P30,000 and a golf set. The body was brought to Caloocan.
Aguirre said the NBI did not find a golf set at the funeral parlor. He said the local police claimed they found it, suggesting it was planted.
"Lumalabas na noong NBI search, wala 'yung golf set. The following day, sabi ng police nakakuha ng golf set," Aguirre told dzBB. (It appears that during the NBI search, they didn't find a golf set. The following day, police said they found a golf set.)
"'Yun din ang sinasabi ng empleyado ng punerarya. Walang golf set," Aguirre added. (That is what the employees of the funeral parlor also said. There was no golf set.)
Malacañang vowed there will be no cover up in the investigation. – Rappler.com