Cops in ‘tokhang for ransom’ targeted
There should be no mercy for policemen engaged in “tokhang for ransom,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Tuesday as he scored the “slow” and “soft” action of the Philippine National Police on the officer implicated in the abduction of a South Korean businessman who has been missing since October.
Lacson, a former PNP chief, said President Duterte should move to rid the police force of officers who abuse the government’s war on drugs.
“The PNP leadership should show no mercy to policemen who engage in ‘hulidap’ and kidnap-extortion cases who take advantage of the government’s no-nonsense efforts against drug offenders,” he said.
“They destroy the image and credibility of the entire police force,” said the lawmaker, who in November last year denounced the operation of “ninja cops” undertaking kidnap-extortion activities targeting Chinese-Filipino businessmen.
Lacson’s statement came as the wife of missing Jee Ick-joo renewed her appeal to PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa to find her husband, three months since he was kidnapped from his home.
The Inquirer first reported Jee’s case on the weekend. It came as the PNP credited Mr. Duterte’s tough anticrime stance for a general drop in crime.
The President has vowed to protect police officers from criminal prosecution, as his war on drugs left more than 6,000 dead since he assumed power six months ago.
“Tokhang” is a Filipino combination word that stands for “knock” and “plead.” Police officers would rap on a suspect’s door and ask him to stop using illegal drugs and join community-organized exercise activities.
And while the government has insisted the program has been effective, the PNP is known to have a long history of corruption, and crooked officers apparently are using the President’s vow as cover for their illicit deeds.
Jee, a 53-year-old businessman and a former director of a South Korean firm, was seized on Oct. 18 last year at his home in Angeles City by a team led by an antinarcotics officer, who has been relieved pending an investigation.
Jee, however, has not been found, and his distraught wife has been forced to seek help, including from President Duterte and Dela Rosa.
An earlier investigation by the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) has recommended the investigation of a police officer, four other companions and several “John Does” in the kidnapping.
Dela Rosa said the suspect police officer, assigned at the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, was already under restrictive custody.
“We are not condoning (the abduction). If it’s proven that he was responsible, he doesn’t deserve any day in this organization,” he said on Monday.
The Inquirer has decided to withhold the name of the suspect policeman as requested by Jee’s wife, Choi Kyung-jin, who said she continued to fear for her husband’s safety and that of her family.
Lacson, who headed the now defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force that handled abduction cases, stressed the suspects should already be in detention.
“Relief is a mere administrative remedy. By now, due process already factored in, those involved should have been summarily dismissed and incarcerated for a nonbailable offense of kidnapping for ransom,” said Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
The PNP action “is not only slow but too soft on such kind of misconduct and criminal act being perpetrated by people who are supposed to enforce the law,” he said.
Choi said Dela Rosa’s statement has given her reason to hope. “Dela Rosa’s promise is a great hope for me,” she told the Inquirer on Monday.
“I want you to focus on finding my husband and for an accurate and thorough investigation. If you can find only my husband, I have nothing to wish for. I hope to see my husband soon,” she appealed to Dela Rosa.
The South Korean Embassy, in a statement to the Inquirer, said the case had “caused deep anxiety” among the 90,000 South Koreans living and working in the country.
“We take this case very seriously and with urgency,” the embassy said. “We are very much concerned about the security of our kidnapping victim. We very much look forward to his release as soon as possible.”
The embassy urged the PNP “to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the case.”
Jee was taken by the gunmen who barged into his home announcing a drug raid. They also took some P540,000 worth of jewelry and other personal items from his house.
He and his house helper were taken out of his village inside his own car. The incident was captured by the neighbor’s security camera. It showed a black pickup truck that belonged to the officer’s wife.
Helper Marisa Dawis was released the following day, but Jee has yet to be found, although his wife paid a ransom of P5 million on Oct. 31 without telling police investigators assigned to the case. —WITH REPORTS FROM CYNTHIA D. BALANA AND AFP