Pampanga RTC orders reinvestigation into Jee Ick Joo slay case

MANILA, Philippines – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles City, Pampanga ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, January 30, to reinvestigate the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.

Judge Irineo Pangilinan of Pampanga RTC Branch 58 granted the motion of Senior Police Officer 3 (SPO3) Ricky Sta Isabel for another preliminary investigation into the charges of kidnapping for ransom with homicide filed against him and other police officers tagged in the case.

In his motion, Sta. Isabel questioned his indictment by the DOJ, despite his lack of opportunity to submit his answer to the charges during an earlier preliminary investigation.

Sta Isabel argued he was deprived of his constitutional right to due process as the DOJ already filed the case in court earlier this month when the preliminary investigation hearing was set for the following month.

Two other co-accused – SPO4 Roy Villegas and Ramon Layung – also adopted Sta. Isabel's motion and sought a reinvestigation.

The DOJ panel, made up of Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera and Olivia Torrevillas, did not oppose the motion during the hearing.

Judge Pangilinan gave the DOJ 60 days or until March 3 to "conduct the reinvestigation and to submit the the resolution."

The court also reset the arraignment of the accused to April 19.

Apart from reinvestigation, the court also granted the plea of Sta. Isabel to be returned to the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame.

"The PNP custodial center is hereby directed to turn over the custody of SPO3 Rickey Sta. Isabel to the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila immediately upon receipt hereof," read the order.

Villegas and Layung meanwhile chose to stay in their detention facilities in Camp Crame and Angeles City district jail, respectively.

Sta. Isabel, who earlier surrendered to the NBI and transferred to PNP custody last January 20 after the issuance of an arrest warrant by the RTC against him and 6 other accused, admitted taking part in dispatching Jee Ick Joo's body, but denied kidnapping and killing Jee himself.

DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II pointed to the possibility of higher PNP officials being involved in the kidnap-slay case after Sta. Isabel and wife Jinky submitted pieces of evidence implicating the involvement of his superiors.

He said the DOJ might amend the case it filed before the court after the reinvestigation and this time identify several accused identified only through aliases "Pulis", "Jerry" and “Ding."

Aguirre bared that the alias "Ding" has been identified as Gerardo Santiago, the retired police officer who owns the Gream funeral parlor where Jee's body was cremated, while the alias "Jerry" is Jerry Omlang, the National Bureau of Investigation volunteer allegedly among those who took Jee from his home in a supposed anti-narcotics operation.

Both suspects have already surrendered to the NBI. –