Manhunt while in Crame: The confusion over SPO3 Sta Isabel

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Manhunt while in Crame: The confusion over SPO3 Sta Isabel
The cop, accused of kidnapping a Korean businessman, may now face possible administrative cases for supposedly failing to follow orders

In a battle of cop vs cop, it was confusion that sparked emotional, expletive-laden proclamations, and later, a series of press conferences just to clarify what was really going on.

On Friday morning, January 13, Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) berated and challenged on radio a cop accused of kidnapping a South Korean businessman who, just a day ago, accused police from another unit of being part of a kidnapping syndicate.

Sabi ko nga dapat in-inquest n’yo kaagad yan para hindi na makasibat yung tao na yan. Noong nalaman namin na meron palang previous kidnapping nung miyembro pa siya ng DAID sa NPD, meron din doon intsik na kinidnap pero na-dismiss yung kaso, lalong lumalakas yung aking kuwan na…dapat hindi na ito magtatagal dito,” he said in an interview over dzMM on Friday, January 13.

(He should have undergone inquest proceedings so he wouldn’t be able to run away. When we found out that he has a previous kidnapping case when he was part of the anti-illegal drugs unit of the Northern Police District, there was a Chinese person who was kidnapped but the case was dismissed… our suspicions heightened. [Expletive] This cop…does not deserve to stay here.)

Dela Rosa was referring to Senior Police Office 3 (SPO3) Ricky Sta Isabel, a cop formerly assigned to the anti-narcotics unit, who is one of the suspects in the kidnapping of Ick Joo Yee in Angeles City back in October 2016. Ick has yet to be located.

Sta Isabel, who denies the allegations of the PNP despite “damning evidence” against him, was – or is – the subject of manhunt operations by several operating units under instructions from Dela Rosa. The news release was sent to media on January 11.

But a day after the PNP announced the manhunt operations, Sta Isabel came out on national television with footage of him casually walking around Camp Crame (the PNP headquarters) too boot. He claimed he was never in hiding and that he was ready to face charges. That same day, Sta Isabel also filed his resignation from the PNP.

That Sta Isabel had apparently all along been reporting to his new unit, the PNP Headquarters Support Service’s Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (PHAU), was a surprise even to media covering the case. The PHAU is where some cops who are being investigated for alleged irregularities are placed pending a probe.

Days before a Monday, January 9, press conference, Dela Rosa announced that Sta Isabel – whom he had refused to name then – was already in restrictive custody. “So that any time, he is available for investigation. A case has already been filed against him by the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group,” explained Dela Rosa then.

Asked to clarify if that meant that Sta Isabel was in Camp Crame, Dela Rosa confirmed, “Andito (He’s here).”

It remains unclear why Dela Rosa or the PNP tagged Sta Isabel as missing. He insists he was reporting regularly, save for a few days where he had to do personal errands.

The PNP’s spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos explained in a media interview on Friday, hours after Dela Rosa’s own radio interview: “He was transferred from AIDG [because of] possible involvement, and Nov 21, [he was transferred to] PHAU HSS… He was asked to report for duty when the order [of Dela Rosa] for him to be placed in restrictive custody [came] as the case developed. He was informed Sunday (January 8) of such order and he was called, he took cognizance of the order of the chief and he defied the order of the chief, Sunday. He did not report Monday. He did not report Tuesday. He did not report Wednesday when the CPNP was able to talk to the wife of the victim and he showed up Thursday, not to report together with two lawyers but to resign.”

But Sta Isabel, based on documents obtained by media, was formally placed under restrictive custody on December 16. “Special Orders Number 10322” was received officially only on January 12, however.

Maro (mautak, or wise)” was how Dela Rosa described Sta Isabel’s handling of his situation. Sta Isabel has been a policeman for over two decades.

Asked why Sta Isabel was still allowed to leave – and even go home – on Thursday, January 12, despite the “manhunt” order against him, Carlos explained: “The HSS director spoke to him and he did not ask permission to leave.”

The case against Sta Isabel is still being investigated but police – Dela Rosa included – are convinced that the evidence against him is strong. And even if he wants to resign – presumably to avoid being placed under restrictive custody – Sta Isabel’s application will still need approval from the National Police Commission, which Dela Rosa is part of.

His apparent failure to follow Dela Rosa’s orders could also result in administrative cases being filed against him. –

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