Court orders release of cop-state witness in Jee Ick Joo slay case
MANILA, Philippines – A Pampanga Court has granted the request of a police officer accused in the abduction and death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo to be released from restrictive custody after fulfilling his duty as a state witness.
In a two-page order made public Tuesday, Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 56 Judge Irin Zenaida Buan granted the request of Senior Police Officer 4 (SPO4) Roy Villegas.
Villegas filed his motion to be discharged as accused from the case and be released from custody after he finished his testimonies against his co-accused.
“Based on the proceedings held in these cases, it appears that witness Villegas already finished his testimony, thus it can be concluded that he already fulfilled his duty as a state witness. With the completion of the testimony of witness Villegas, there is no more valid reason to recall his discharges, thus, the effect of his discharge should be given effect,” the ruling said.
In his affidavit, Villegas identified SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel as the one who strangled Jee to death after talking to a “Sir Dumlao” who later turned out to be Superintendent Rafael Dumlao III, former official of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, and one of the respondents in the case.
Jee and his house helper were abducted in the former’s residence in Pampanga in October 2016 in a supposed anti-illegal drugs operation.
The house helper was eventually released while Jee was taken to Camp Crame where he was strangled to death after ransom negotiations bogged down.
His body was taken to a funeral home in Caloocan where he was cremated and the ashes disposed in a toilet
Villegas said that even when he realized it was not a legitimate police operation, he still continued to obey instructions for fear of his life and the safety of his family.
An eye witness to the abduction and killing, he was also among those who took Jee’s body to Gream’s Funeral Homes in Caloocan City.
In her ruling, Buan also junked the appeal of respondents Sta. Isabel and Jerry Omlang opposing Villegas’ request to be released from restrictive custody.
Sta. Isabel and Omlang argued that Villegas request should not be granted, citing their petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals.
But the court said their arguments have no legal basis.
“The amendments in Section 7, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court clearly mandates that the pendency of a petition for certiorari will not interrupt the course of the main case unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction is issued by the appellate court,” read the court’s ruling.
Sta. Isabel, Omlang and Dumlao are charged with kidnapping for ransom and homicide while Gerardo “Ding’ Santiago, owner of the Gream Funeral Services in Caloocan City where the body of the South Korean businessman was brought, was charged as an accessory to the crime.
Omlang is an errand boy at the NBI who surrendered and confessed to his participation in the crime.
Villegas was initially included in the case but the prosecution asked the court to remove him from the list of respondents as he turned state witness. /gsg
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