Tycoon’s son faces probe for drugs, death of companion in La Union
DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan, Philippines —The son of a tycoon is being investigated over the death on Saturday of a visual artist in a room that they shared at a hostel in San Juan town, La Union province.
Lt. Col. Abubakar Mangelen, information officer of the Ilocos regional police, said Julian Ongpin, 29, was also charged with possession of illegal drugs on Monday before the local prosecutor’s office. Ongpin is a son of business tycoon Roberto Ongpin.
Authorities responding to a phone call by the hostel staff found Ongpin’s companion, artist Bree Jonson, unconscious upon entering their room at 5 a.m. on Saturday.
Jonson, 30, was then taken to the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in San Fernando City, the provincial capital, where she was declared dead.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Police Maj. Gerardo Macaraeg, the police chief in San Juan, said: “What I can only say now is we found plenty of cocaine in the bed. We cannot tell what caused her death. We have to wait for the result of the autopsy.”
Macaraeg said investigators initially ruled out suicide in Jonson’s death, contrary to the claim of the hostel’s management.
Macaraeg said Ongpin had tested positive for cocaine ingestion. He is held at the San Juan custodial facility.
The Ongpin family did not respond to the Inquirer’s requests for comment on Monday.
According to Macaraeg, Ongpin and Jonson checked in at the hostel at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, then left the establishment about two hours later when friends dropped by to pick them up.
Macaraeg said the two returned at 2:58 a.m., based on the logbook of the hostel’s guard.
He said that according to the staff, they heard an argument from the room which went on for about 15 minutes.
Footage from a security camera outside the room showed Ongpin going in and out. Macaraeg said Ongpin was drunk.
“We received the call from the resort at 4:30 a.m. and we found her [Jonson] lying on the bed. We called for an ambulance to bring her to the hospital,” the police chief said.
Authorities declined to comment when asked if anyone had claimed Jonson’s body.
At 30, Jonson already had a prolific career noted for her striking works depicting animals and plants.
Through these paintings, she aimed “to critique the relationship that humans have with their environment,” according to notes on her website explaining her art.
She had seven solo shows and nine group shows here and abroad, and had exhibited in Kuala Lumpur, New York, Oslo, Sydney, Tokyo and other cities.
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