Family of slain Korean businessman withdraws case from NBI

MANILA, Philippines – Slain Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo's widow Choi Kyung-jin withdrew the carnapping and kidnapping cases they filed with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), a change that adds to the tangled tale that pits the NBI and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against each other. (READ: Murder case inside Camp Crame: A tangled tale of crime)

At a hearing at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, February 16, the family's lawyer, Bryan Bantilan, told the prosecutors that they have formally withdrawn the charges they filed against respondents who are mostly policemen from the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG).

This comes amid claims that NBI agents were also involved in Jee's sensational kidnapping and murder, a case that embarrassed the Duterte administration and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend the PNP's war on drugs. The cops had allegedly used the anti-drug campaign as cover when they kidnapped Jee.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said NBI agents took part in the crime, a claim later echoed by the President himself. NBI Director Dante Gierran said they are already investigating this.

Asked to comment on the alleged involvement of NBI agents in Jee's murder, Bantilan just said: "Baka, siguro po (maybe), I can't say." 

It was only on February 3, during the last DOJ hearing, when Jee's wife Choi made the request to add carnapping and kidnapping charges to the case. Jee's Ford Explorer and golf set were taken on the night of the abduction October 18 last year from their home in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Bantilan said they are still pursuing the carnapping and kidnapping charges, but no longer with the NBI. Bantilan said these would be incorporated in a case which will be filed together with the PNP-AKG.

"Kasama siya sa magiging supplemental. So hindi na separate. Kaya sinasabi ko na the NBI should course it through AKG so it would be... tuloy pa rin," Bantilan told reporters.

(It would be included in the supplemental case, no longer a separate case. That's why I'm telling the NBI to course it through AKG so we can still pursue it.)

Bantilan also sought to exclude the NBI's report from the investigation.

During the hearing, lawyers for the respondents requested that they be given copies of the NBI's independent report, citing media reports that the NBI and PNP have conflicting findings.

"We need both reports to better defend our clients," one of them said. But Bantilan immediately told the DOJ panel that "as far as the NBI is concerned they are not part of this case anymore."

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas said she cannot say at this point that the NBI is not part of the case since the NBI has yet to act on Choi's withdrawal request.

Torrevillas added that there's even a special order from the NBI to have special investigators. "We have to wait for the action to be taken by the NBI," Torrevillas said.

Bantilan refused to explain why their camp is keen on withdrawing the case from the NBI.

Jee's camp also moved to include housemaid Marisa Morquicho as co-complainant, saying Bantilan would also represent her. Morquicho was earlier subpoenaed by the DOJ panel as a respondent.

"She is also a victim, she is vital to the case," Bantilan said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image