Pampanga court OKs transfer of cop in Jee Ick Joo case to PNP-AKG

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – A regional trial court judge here approved on Thursday, January 11, the request of Senior Police Officer 4 Roy Villegas to be transferred to the custody of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG).

In the hearing on the two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and one count of carnapping against Villegas, SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, Jerry Omlang, Superintendent Rafael Dumlao and 2 John Does, the court granted Villegas’s request.

“Upon manifestation and motion of the prosecution and the counsel of accused Villegas, the Philippine National Police Custodial Center is hereby ordered to transfer the custody of SPO4 Villegas to the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group which, in turn, (is) directed to keep said accused in their custody until further directive from this Court,” Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr. of Regional Trial Court Branch 58 said in his order.

The Department of Justice earlier asked the court to turn Villegas into a state witness in the cases related to Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who was abducted from the posh Friendship Plaza Subdivision here on October 18, 2016 and killed inside Camp Crame, the headquarters of the PNP.

Judge Pangilinan granted the DOJ’s request, saying that the testimony of Villegas is absolutely necessary to prove conspiracy among the accused who are charged with conspiring with one another on the alleged abduction of Jee and his househelp Marissa Morquicho, as well as the subsequent killing of the Jee Ick Joo.

Villegas was scheduled to give his testimony on the January 11 hearing but this was sidelined by Omlang’s presentation of a handwritten letter to the court requesting that he be given leave to replace his lawyer.

Omlang asked the court that he be allowed to be represented by counsels from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which represents Sta. Isabel.

PAO lawyers present during the hearing conferred with Omlang and later told the court that they have to first get the permission of PAO chief Persida Acosta with regard to the suspect’s request.

The judge said that although the testimony of Villegas was significant, Omlang also had the right to be heard and be represented by a counsel in every stage of the legal proceedings.

Pangilinan said Villegas will give his testimony on February 8 and 28.

Lawyer Arnold Valenzuela, counsel for Dumlao, told reporters after the hearing that they have yet to see whether or not Villegas would testify as a state witness or as an accused, saying that the order to discharge him was not yet final. 

He added they would file a motion for reconsideration to oppose Villegas’s discharge.

Dumlao’s lawyer also questioned the request of Villegas to be transferred to the PNP-AKG, saying the PNP Custodial Center is the only proper custodial center for the accused, not the PNP-AKG.  –