MANILA, Philippines—Four policemen were charged with robbery and extortion on Tuesday for allegedly detaining four Korean tourists last year on a charge of illegal use of marijuana and demanding $30,000 or more than P1 million for their release.
Senior Inspector Glenn Gonzales and Police Officer 2 Richard Sibayan of the Manila Police District’s Sta. Cruz Station, and PO1 George Borabo and PO2 Jolly Aliangan of the Sampaloc Station were named respondents in the case filed in the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Assistant City Prosecutor Jesse Tiburan recommended the robbery extortion case last December based on the complaint of Kim Youn Ho, 44; Lee Byung Soup, 58; Nam Sang Jik, 56. Do Wan Kuk was also detained but did not execute an affidavit.
In his defense, Gonzales, then chief of the Sta. Cruz Station’s anti-illegal drugs unit, provided documents that he was not present during the alleged extortion.
He was attending a narcotics course conducted by the US Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The counteraffidavits of the three other accused showed that Senior Inspector Paulito Sabulao, former Sampaloc anti-illegal drugs unit chief, was the leader of the operation that arrested the Koreans suspected of using marijuana.
In the complaint, the Koreans said they were supposed to leave on a 2:30 p.m. flight on Feb. 14, 2012, but their tour guide, Choi Jang Tae, convinced them to shop in a nearby mall that morning.
Shortly after the group left Diamond Hotel in Malate, Manila, three men alighted from a van, pointed guns at them and told them to get inside the vehicle, the complaint said.
The Korean tourists said they were taken to a police station, later identified as the Sta. Cruz Station. A button that fell from one of the Koreans’ shirt was found in a room there.
“We were told that we are under arrest because of marijuana found in us which is complete lies as we do not have marijuana and immediately we were shown sachet of marijuana,” the complaint-affidavit said.
“We were told that we can actually settle the case by paying $30,000 in exchange for our release and dropping of cases,” it added.
The Koreans were told to seek help from their tour companions left in the hotel. When the latter refused, the detained tourists were told to contact their family in Korea and deposit $6,000 each in a Hana Bank Korea account under the name of Kim Hae Won.
That afternoon, the Korean tourists were released after payment was confirmed. They sought the help of the Korean Embassy afterward and filed a complaint. The respondents were identified through the police personal data sheets.
In a counteraffidavit, Sibayan said Sabulao, Borabo and Aliangan of the Sampaloc station coordinated with his unit (Sta. Cruz) for an operation in their area to arrest Koreans suspected of using marijuana.
A certain Tom, later identified as Gi Il Bang, and Choi, the tour guide, were the informants. They also served as interpreters and negotiators during the detention.
Sibayan said he didn’t have any participation or knowledge in the alleged extortion and the Koreans were later released for lack of evidence.
He said sachets of marijuana were found not in the Koreans’ possession but in the police van.
Though the illegal drugs may have been dropped there when the Koreans boarded, it was flimsy evidence to pursue and so he was ordered by then Sta. Cruz station commander Supt. James Afalla to let the Koreans go.
“Hindi makatarungan para sa isang mababang pulis na katulad ko ang idiin sa isang krimen na hindi ko ginawa o namalayan na nangyari dahil sa kakulangan ko ng sapat na aral sa wikang Koreano,” Sibayan said.