Seoul demands answers in murder of Korean
South Korea demanded answers on Wednesday after the Philippine government confirmed that a South Korean businessman was murdered after he was kidnapped last year by a group led by a rogue policeman who extorted ransom from the victim’s wife.
The killing is the latest in a long list of criminal acts by members of the Philippine National Police, regarded as one of the nation’s most corrupt institutions.
The case has also fueled concerns about the PNP’s role in enforcing President Duterte’s crime war that has left more than 6,000 dead since he came to power last year.
The victim, Jee Ick-joo, 53, was taken along with his Filipino maid by men who announced a police raid at his Angeles City home in Pampanga province last Oct. 18.
The maid was subsequently freed, but Jee remained missing despite the payment of P5 million by his wife, Choi Kyung-jin.
Choi appealed for help from President Rodrigo Duterte and PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa. The story was first reported by the Inquirer nearly two weeks ago.
The South Korean foreign ministry, citing a Philippine government report, said on Wednesday that Jee was strangled and burned to ashes in a crematorium on the day he was abducted.
The crematorium was owned by a former police officer, said the foreign ministry.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se demanded answers after receiving a phone call from Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay to inform him of the murder.
“Minister Yun, expressing grave shock over the implication of Philippine police officers in the case, asked that the Philippine government get to the bottom of the case and bring those responsible to justice,” said a foreign ministry spokesperson.
He said eight suspects, including three policemen, were being investigated.
“The Philippine police told us that several police officers had been named as suspects in the kidnapping and murder,” said the ministry official.
SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, an officer suspected to have led the kidnapping, surrendered this week, according to the PNP spokesperson, Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos.
Carlos said two officers who went with Sta. Isabel to the house were also under investigation.
Carlos said a retired police officer was also believed to be involved but had fled to Canada.
All the accused officers were from the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group based at PNP headquarters in Quezon City. They had gone to Jee’s home on the pretext of a drug raid, Carlos said.
Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro said the leader of the accused was a police superintendent, whom he only named as a certain “Dumlao” (not the Anti-Kidnapping Group chief, Senior Supt. Glenn Dumlao).
“They are now on restrictive custody as ordered by the PNP chief and they will be undergoing precharge investigation,” Ferro said.
“If found guilty, they will be discharged and administratively charged, and if they are further found involved in (the) criminal side, they will be prosecuted by the court,” he added.
Ferro said investigators were also focusing on Sta. Isabel’s previous commander, after Dela Rosa claimed on Monday that he apparently had a protector who facilitated his entry into the antinarcotics group.
One of ‘narcogenerals’
Dela Rosa did not name the alleged protector, but said that he was one of the “narcogenerals” earlier named by President Duterte.
Ferro said the day of the abduction coincided with his trip to the United Arab Emirates to facilitate the surrender of confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte “has not verbalized any dissatisfaction” about Dela Rosa’s actions on the case.
But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the investigation included officials “surrounding” Dela Rosa.
“This is deep. There are people surrounding PNP Director General Bato who are possibly involved. They are high ranking officers, heads of departments,” Aguirre said. He did not elaborate. —JEROME ANING, MARLON RAMOS, GIL CABACUNGAN, JOVIC YEE, JHESSET ENANO, TETCH TORRES AND AFP
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