HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday called on Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa to resign over the abduction and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the hands of the police right inside the PNP’s Camp Crame headquarters.
Alvarez joined the growing call for the PNP chief to quit after police arrested the policeman said to have been responsible for the killing, Senior Police Officer (SPO) 3 Ricky Santa Isabel, who had surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“[De la Rosa] should immediately resign as chief of the PNP to save President Rodrigo Duterte from further embarrassment and restore respect to the Office of the PNP Chief,” Alvarez said in a statement.
“The commission of a heinous crime right under his very nose is not only an insult but a clear indication that he has lost the respect of his people,” he added.
De la Rosa on Thursday said he would kill the policemen involved if he had his way and that he wanted to melt in shame after learning that the South Korean was killed inside a sport utility vehicle in Camp Crame, on a spot beside the PNP chief’s office.
Alvarez described the incident as a meltdown of PNP discipline.
“General de la Rosa seems more interested in having a showbiz career and in landing on society pages of newspapers with his being everywhere doing mundane things like singing videoke and watching concerts,” the Davao del Norte lawmaker said.
Alvarez also called out de la Rosa for the latter’s apparent cowardice, as shown by a video of the PNP chief running away from a news conference in December “like a headless chicken” after the pyrotechnic device he was holding started to smoke.
“How can we believe the stern statements de la Rosa had been making against criminals like in the aftermath of the Davao City bombing, when he was the first to run in the slightest possibility of danger?”
The PNP spokesman, Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos, said the killing was an “isolated case” and it would be unfair to place the onus of the blame on de la Rosa.
“Every day, crime is happening so every day we’ll have a new PNP chief if that case is going to be their basis for the chief to resign,” he said in a news conference in Camp Crame on Friday. “You don’t judge the chief for the wrong of one,” he added.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said the decision should be left to President Rodrigo Duterte, while a key administration ally, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, told reporters there was no need for de la Rosa to resign.
While Cayetano said he believes in the doctrine of command responsibility, it would be difficult for the PNP chief to monitor every move of the more than 1,000 personnel in Camp Crame.
“I am not calling for his courtesy resignation, I think he’s doing a good job,” said Cayetano.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said the abduction and killing of Jee should serve as a wake-up call to the police hierarchy. “The PNP leadership should lose no time in addressing the issue by henceforth going hammer and tongs against all rogue cops who only care about their personal gains to the detriment of the entire police organization,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers condemned the killing, with Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat saying it was a “huge slap to the anti-corruption drive of the administration.”
Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list, a Duterte ally, warned that the Philippine government could be held liable under the international law.
“Under international law, a state may be held liable for failure to protect the life of foreign nationals in its territory….Since the suspected killers are members of the PNP, they acted as agents of the Philippine government regardless of the illegality of their acts,” he said.
Santa Isabel, the prime suspect in the killing of the Korean executive, was transferred from the custody of the NBI to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City late afternoon on Friday.
He was released by the NBI after Angeles City Regional Trial Court Judge Ireneo Pangilinan Jr. issued a warrant of arrest against the policeman for the murder of Jee Ick Joo last October 19.
Aside from Santa Isabel, also named in the arrest warrant were SPO4 Roy Villegas, SPO4 Ramon Yalung, and four others identified only as “Pulis,” “Jerry,” “Sir Dumlao” and “Ding,” who was identified in earlier reports as barangay (village) chairman Gerardo Santiago, the ex-policeman who owns the Caloocan City funeral parlor where Jee’s remains were processed.
Villegas and Police Office 2 Christopher Baldovino claim Santa Isabel tricked them into believing the operation was a legitimate one.
NBI Director Dante Gierran told reporters Santa Isabel was released to the police Anti-Kidnaping Group (AKG) to avoid conflict.
AKG men went to NBI yesterday and picked up Santa Isabel at 6:31 p.m. Santa Isabel wore a white shirt and a bulletproof vest. He smiled to the media as he walked from the NBI detention cell to a convoy of more than 10 police cars.
Before his transfer, Camp Crame police presented a copy of the arrest warrant to the NBI Special Task Force handling the case since Santa Isabel’s surrender on Sunday evening.
Santa Isabel allegedly killed Jee by strangulation on the evening of October 19 right inside Camp Crame. He was brought to the Gream funeral parlor in Caloocan and then cremated.
Jee was abducted from his house in Angeles City on October 18, after the group of Santa Isabel presented a fake warrant of arrest for drug trafficking against the Korean national. Marisa Morquicho, Jee’s househelp, was also allegedly abducted.
Santa Isabel was said to have extorted P5 million from Jee’s wife, Choi Kyung Jin, even after killing the Korean executive.
The Public Attorney’s Office will represent Santa Isabel in court proceedings after private lawyers refused to handle his case, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said.
Santa Isabel volunteered to be placed under the Witness Protection Program of the Justice department but was declined, as he was not the “least guilty.”
Santa Isabel’s wife, Jinky, went to the Justice department yesterday but Aguirre declined to give details of their conversation.
“She talked about many things but I could not reveal. I will wait for the sworn statement,” he said in a text message.
Ding, Santa Isabel ‘friends’
Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan said Santiago, the funeral parlor owner, was a known associate of Santa Isabel.
Malapitan told reporters Santiago and Santa Isabel were formerly assigned to the Northern Police District.
Santiago has been chairman of Barangay Bagbaguin in Caloocan for more than six years.
Investigators found that Santiago got P30,000 and a golf set from Jee’s abductors as payment for the embalmment of the Korean executive’s remains.
The golf set with 14 clubs was found inside Gream Funeral Services by operatives of the NBI and Caloocan City police on the night of January 18.
Jee’s wife confirmed that the golf set was owned by her husband.
WITH JAIME R. PILAPIL , JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND NELSON S. BADILLA