DESPITE being identified by the house- help of slain South Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo, Senior Police Officer (SPO) 3 Ricky Santa Isabel maintained on Thursday that he was not directly involved in the abduction and killing of the shipping executive.
Isabel, the prime suspect in the murder of Jee last October, told members of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs that Supt. Rafael Dumlao, head of an anti-illegal drugs unit in Camp Crame, was behind the operation.
During the Senate inquiry into the kidnap-slay case of Jee involving members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Marissa Morquicho, the maid of the Korean businessman, positively identified Santa Isabel as part of the the group of men who entered her employer’s house in Angeles City, Pampanga, on October 18.
She also identified Santa Isabel in the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage withdrawing money allegedly using Jee’s ATM card.
“The one who entered the house was SPO3 Ricky Santa Isabel,“ Morquicho told senators.
Morquicho was abducted by Santa Isabel’s group along with her employer who was accused by the suspects of being involved in illegal drug operations in the country.
According to Morquicho, she heard the suspects asking her employer about his alleged drug operation and forcing him to identify his supplier while on their way to Metro Manila.
She said she also witnessed Santa Isabel talking to a certain “boss” on the phone about their failure to find drugs on Jee.
The house help recalled that the suspects were beating up her employer while they were traveling, but she did not witness the killing because she was ordered to transfer to another vehicle and was eventually released in Cubao, Quezon City.
She said she was given P1,000 and was told to go home.
Apart from the positive identification of the house help, Santa Isabel’s vehicle was also seen entering the subdivision where the victim was residing, several times before the abduction.
There was also a CCTV footage showing Santa Isabel and another individual, identified only as “Jerry,” withdrawing from an ATM machine in Greenhills, San Juan.
The footage was obtained by the PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group headed by Sr. Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who was conducting an investigation into the case.
Santa Isabel however denied the claims and insisted he was not present during the abduction and the killing of the victim inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
He claimed that the entire operation was the idea of Supt. Rafael Dumlao. He asked the Senate committee to allow him to play the recorded conversation between his wife, Jinky, and Dumlao who supposedly asked her help to spare Dumlao from the kidnapping case.
Santa Isabel also told senators that Dumlao and a “Colonel Macapagal” personally talked to him in his house on January 15, asking him to cooperate and go along with the scenario they had contrived that would spare him and Dumlao from the case.
Dumlao and Macapagal, Santa Isabel claimed, explained to him their plan which would involve killing several police officers as fall guys.
“They also told me that by cooperating with them he (Dumlao) will even be portrayed as a hero… But I declined,” Santa Isabel told the committee.
He claimed to have a video recording of his conversation with Dumlao and Macapagal, as well as an audio recording of Dumlao’s calls to his wife.
The committee however refused to allow the playing of the recordings because they were illegally obtained.
Dumlao for his part denied the allegation and insisted he did not authorize the illegal drug operation against Jee.
He said those who were with Santa Isabel during the abduction were not with his unit.
PNP, NBI clash
Senator Panfilo Lacson, the committee chairman, on Thursday expressed serious concern over the possibility of the kidnap-slay being dismissed by the court unless the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) got their acts together.
Lacson questioned PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa and NBI Director Dante Gierran over their contrasting findings on the case of the Korean businessman.
The PNP findings showed Santa Isabel as the primary suspect, while the NBI reported that he was not.
“I’d like to enjoin the NBI and PNP, it’s not too late to coordinate. It is the case that will suffer here. I hope you will not fall victims to intrigue,” Lacson told de la Rosa and Gierran during the hearing.
The senator said the clashing theories of the PNP and NBI could be used by the defendants to indicate reasonable doubt which could lead to the dismissal of the case.
“If we allow this case to be dismissed because of lack of coordination it is not the NBI and the PNP that would be hit, but the entire country,” Lacson added.
Gierran assured the senators that they were willing to meet with the PNP to discuss their findings and strengthen the case.
De la Rosa said the NBI director approached him before the Senate hearing and informed him about his intention to call for a meeting with the PNP.