The Angeles City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued an arrest warrant yesterday against SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and other suspects involved in the kidnapping and killing of Korean Jee Ick Joo.
RTC Branch 58 ordered the arrest of the suspects after Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors filed a case of kidnapping for ransom with homicide under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) against them.
Also charged with Sta. Isabel are SPO4 Roy Villegas, a fellow member of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (PNP-AIDG); Ramon Yalong; and four other persons only known through aliases Pulis, Jerry, Sir Dumlao, and Ding.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre confirmed the issuance of the arrest warrant by the local court against the accused.
Sta. Isabel, who surrendered last Sunday, is currently in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), while Villegas yielded last January 16 to the PNP’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG).
“The custody will be transferred to the PNP,” explained Aguirre, noting that PNP got the copy of the arrest warrant.
Aguirre said Sta. Isabel was is expected to be picked up from the NBI by PNP operatives yesterday afternoon.
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta said that lawyers from her office will be representing Sta. Isabel after his lawyer left him.
“Marami daw death threats ‘yung private lawyer kaya nag-withdraw. So kailangan may abogado,” she explained.
Acosta disclosed that Sta. Isabel’s wife, Jinky, has expressed concerns over her husband’s safety at the PNP and has requested that he be placed in the custody of the NBI.
Because of this, Acosta said that PAO lawyers will request the court to have Sta. Isabel placed under NBI custody.
Meanwhile, Aguirre bared that Jinky was at his office yesterday to make a sworn statement on what she knows about the case.
The Secretary gave no commitment if Sta. Isabel would be considered as a state witness and be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“Titignan natin kung hindi siya ang most guilty. If it appears na ikaw ang hindi most guilty, then hindi qualified,” said Aguirre.
In its resolution, the DoJ indicated that: “In this case, it was respondent Sta. Isabel who killed the victim by strangulation.”
Jee was kidnapped in Pampanga and strangled at Camp Crame, the PNP national headquarters in Quezon citv, after his family paid a R4.5 million ransom last year.
It was learned that the body of Jee was cremated without the reglamentary death certificate.
PNP URGED TO ACT
Senators yesterday slammed the gruesome killing of Jee and called on President Duterte and PNP chief Ronaldo “Bato” Dela Rosa to ensure that the policemen directly involved in the crime would face the full force of the law.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson advised PNP leadership to conduct a thorough cleansing of the premier police agency of scalawags in conjunction with its no-nonsense anti-illegal drug campaign.
Cleansing of the PNP’s bad eggs is highly advisable in gunning after criminals that is needed to earn the respect of the citizenry, Lacson told Dela Rosa.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, said he has friends in the Chinese-Filipino community in Bulacan who had been kidnapped for ransom but came out alive after paying ransom.
It is now clear that policemen involved in the anti-illegal drug campaign of President Duterte are now into kidnapping for ransom activities, he said.
He cited the case of Leyte policemen allegedly allowed by Police Supt. Marvin Marcos to ‘’arrest’’ Albuerra (Leyte) Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail for supposed illegal possession of firearms.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero expressed the same sentiments.
“This is not only embarrassing… it is outright wrong and unacceptable. This shows the absence of respect and sheer arrogance of some police officers not only with their PNP Chief but with their uniform and organization,” Escudero said.
“This is what happens when you handle with kid gloves abusive PNP officers and coddle and protect them,” he added.
Sen. Leila de Lima said what happened was only expected after President Duterte unleashed a policy of tolerance on PNP abuse in the war on drugs, “to the point of promising pardon for those found guilty of abuses.”
In a press conference, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said he is dismayed over the incident but said he would not call for Dela Rosa’s resignation.
“It’s sad, tragic, and inexcusable. Definitely, kung may abuse, dapat may sumagot,” Cayetano said, adding he would support investigations to be conducted regarding the case.
“I believe in command responsibility. But I think na any head, hindi naman mababantayan ang over 1,000 personnel,” said Cayetano.
However, Cayetano said independent investigations by the NBI and the DoJ should be allowed.
(JEFFREY G. DAMICOG • HANNAH L. TORREGOZA)