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Sta Isabel pushes Korean mafia angle in counter-affidavit

MANILA, Philippines – Policeman Ricky Sta Isabel, the primary suspect in the kidnapping-murder case of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, questioned the exclusion of several Korean nationals in the investigation into the highly controversial case. 

In his sworn affidavit he subscribed to during a hearing at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, March 2, Sta Isabel highlighted earlier testimonies by the housemaids of Jee’s neighbors, saying they saw 3 Koreans force Jee into a vehicle outside his Angeles City home on October 18, 2016.

Sta Isabel quoted an incident report filed on October 19, saying housemaids Monalisa Buizer and Mary Ann Camiling saw “three unidentified Korean national forcing Jee Ick Joo to board his vehicle described as One Black Ford Explorer bearing license plate no. abt 1915 after which she went inside.”

Buizer would later change her testimony, saying in an affidavit filed on October 28, or 10 days after the incident, that she did not see 3 Korean nationals but two people who forced Jee into a black pick-up.

Friend of Jee's widow?

According to Sta Isabel, the October 19 incident report should be admitted as evidence because it was filed only the day after when there was no opportunity yet to fabricate a statement.

“It goes without saying that the element of spontaneity is crucial as regards the statements of witnesses Buizer and Camiling,” said Sta Isabel.

Sta Isabel also said that Joel Bulaon, one of the security guards of Friendship Plaza in Angeles, had earlier said that on October 18, he noticed a vehicle parked near Jee’s car. Quoting Bulaon, Sta Isabel said the car belonged to a certain Seo Sun Hee, who is a friend of Jee’s widow Choi Kyung-Jin.

“If there was an abduction wherein 3 Korean nationals allegedly forced the victim to go inside his own car, the friend of the wife of the victim should have either helped him, or if he did not help, then he could have some complicity to the alleged kidnapping,” Sta Isabel said. (READ: 'Damning evidence' vs cop linked to Korean’s kidnapping – PNP)

Korean-owned vehicles?

Sta Isabel also quoted a development report filed by the former station commander of Angeles City Police Station 5, saying that based on the subidvision’s security log book, a Toyota Innova also entered Friendship Plaza before Jee’s kidnapping. The vehicle would later be traced to a Jeff Lee Tae who allegedly rented the Innova for 3 months.

“It is just unfortunate that rather than focusing the investigation on the said 3 Korean nationals, the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) primarily pointed to me and to one other Filipino national who even cooperated during the police investigation on the matter as culprits,” Sta Isabel said.

The embattled policeman added: “Why is Jeff Lee Tae not in the picture even though it is not denied that he was the one who rented the Innova from (Ramon) Yalung? Are Filipinos more inclined to commit crimes than Korean nationals?”

'Korean mafia'

Sta Isabel also cited Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s statements in a Senate hearing that the investigation should tackle the possible involvement of members of the Korean mafia.

The Korean government, through its embassy here, hit Aguirre for making “misleading statements.”

Aguirre later met with Korean officials at the DOJ and said in a statement that “after relaying some confidential information to him, the Korean ambassador of the Philippines, His Excellency Kim Jae Shin, gave the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the go signal to investigate any involvement of the Korean Mafia” in Jee’s killing.

“The police investigation should have concentrated on those facts immediately after the incident happened…Surprisingly, however, the investigation had desisted from pursuing the Korean nationals as mentioned by the witnessess...” Sta Isabel said in his affidavit.

As part of the DOJ’s reinvestigation, the NBI and the PNP-AKG were tasked to conduct a joint probe and submit a report together.

Choi, however, tried to take the NBI off the investigation by pleading to President Rodrigo Duterte, citing “loss of trust.”

The DOJ had already said the NBI will remain on the case as an investigating body. The next hearings are scheduled on March 7 and 10. – 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.

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