Malacañang on Monday assured the public there will be no whitewash or cover-up in the investigation into the abduction and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Palace was “outraged” by Jee’s killing and that the people behind the crime will pay.
“We assure everyone that there will be no whitewash or cover-up,” Abella said in a statement. “We will not tolerate corrupt, abusive, errant policemen who betray the organization and the men and women in uniform who continue their faithful, dedicated and loyal service to the country.”
Jee was kidnapped in Angeles City in Pampanga allegedly by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), on October 18, 2016. Hours after his abduction, he was killed inside Camp Crame, the PNP’s headquarters in Quezon City.
At least eight suspects are facing investigation, three of them active policemen.
Jee’s abduction had been tagged as “Tokhang for ransom.”
Oplan Tokhang – which comes from the Visayan root words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (request) – refers to the PNP strategy to visit houses and convince drug pushers and users to surrender.
PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa had maintained that the Korean businessman’s case was not part of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
The case has prompted calls for dela Rosa to resign.
But President Duterte rejected this, saying he has “complete trust” in Dela Rosa.
“He stays there. Bato has my complete trust,” Duterte said in an interview with GMA News on Sunday.
In a speech during dela Rosa’s birthday celebration on Sunday, the President said the PNP chief is not accountable for the incident.
“There are two ways of committing crime under the Revised Penal Code. What is it? Felony, malice or negligence. From the looks of it, wala akong nakitang [I have not seen] criminal intent, really, on the part of Dela Rosa and the rest of the group,” the President said.
“Sino ba naman ang may gusto gawin mo yan sa kampo mo? Wala e [No one would want someone killed inside the camp. None],” he added.
Abella echoed the President, saying the PNP chief should not be blamed for the incident “simply because he understands that whatever happened and has happened exactly speaks about the concerns that he had regarding crime and corruption, crime and corruption — and also crime and corruption in government institutions.”
He also downplayed criticisms that Duterte’s support for dela Rosa is tantamount to tolerating the misdeeds of some rouge policemen.
“I think they misunderstand the situation. Like I said, this simply goes to show that the depth of corruption has really taken root within government institutions and we need to continue to support efforts like the President’s and the PNP General Director dela Rosa in their pursuit of making — of addressing crime and corruption,” Abella said.
But opposition lawmakers fear that there will be more victims of extrajudicial killings and kidnaps for ransom if the President continues to assure policemen of his protection.
Party-list Representatives Harry Roque of Kabayan and Alfredo Garbin of Ako Bicol issued the warning in light of the murder of South Korean Jee Ick Joo inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters in Camp Crame, specifically near PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s office.
The South Korean was abducted on a fake warrant of arrest presented by the police and was strangled by SPO3 Ricky Santa Isabel. The victim’s remains were also later cremated.
“The President should watch out his statements. When he says he will protect the police at all costs, the police get more daring…and you also want the death penalty restored. Corrupt policemen will really have a field day because no matter what they do, they will be backed by the President,” Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list told reporters.
The President has a penchant for vouching for policemen, at one time even saying he is ready to go to jail for the lawmen.
“The President should make a clear message in this case wherein it was the police who are committing crimes. He should not tolerate this and vow to give erring policemen the harshest punishment,” Roque added.
Rep. Alfredo Garbin of Ako Bicol party-list said the gruesome murder of the South Korean businessman is a result of at least 5,000 drug-related killings that the PNP failed to resolve.
“This is a product of the culture of impunity. The police are emboldened to do these things because they thought that such killings won’t be resolved anyway. The PNP chief should do something to regain the police’s credibility, and it starts with addressing these unresolved killings,” Garbin said.
“If we are going to restore death penalty, these tokhang for ransom operation will even extort higher amounts of money because they know that framing their victims for a drug offense would mean death,” he added.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI