Evidence overwhelming against SPO3 Sta. Isabel
From witness accounts to video footage, there is “overwhelming evidence” pointing to SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel as the man behind the abduction and murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said this at the opening hearing of a Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs inquiry on Thursday, triggered by the “tokhang-for-ransom” incident that has brought shame to the force and led to other complaints of the emerging extortion racket under the cover of President Duterte’s drug war.
“The evidence against him is very overwhelming,” Dela Rosa told the hearing presided by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the committee’s chair.
5 key points
Dela Rosa pointed out five key points tagging Sta. Isabel, from the time Jee was taken at his home in Angeles City last Oct. 18 to his killing, even up to the time Sta. Isabel allegedly withdrew money from the victim’s bank account through an automated teller machine (ATM).
The positive identification of his Toyota Hi-Lux, which his wife said he was using.
Testimony by Jee’s housemaid, Marisa Morquicho, that Sta. Isabel abducted her and her employer and that Sta. Isabel went up to the second floor of the house to steal valuables.
The closed circuit television footage captured Sta. Isabel and his accomplice, one alias “Jerry,” taking cash from an ATM account traced to Jee.
Statement by SPO4 Roy Villegas detailed how Sta. Isabel abducted Jee, transported him to Camp Crame and there strangled the Korean inside his car, and his conversation with Supt. Raphael Dumlao of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).
Statements by two guards who saw Sta. Isabel at Jee’s subdivision in Angeles days prior to the abduction, giving a different name and using the same car.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III reminded Dela Rosa of a sixth element: Sta. Isabel’s presence at Jee’s cremation.
Sta. Isabel denied the allegations, saying he was just framed. But Dela Rosa would have none of it, saying later in an interview: “That’s how good he is.”
“Imagine, he was already caught in the CCTV withdrawing money, and he is still denying it? Now, he is seeking a reopening of the case to invalidate the previous investigation of the AKG,” Dela Rosa said, referring to the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
The senators heard testimony that Sta. Isabel earned P8,000, but has a net worth of P14 million, which he said was because his wife was good at managing the family’s businesses.
“I have nothing to do with the case. Those are all just allegations,” said the AIDG operative, formerly a driver at the National Police Commission who entered the force in 1996.
Jee’s wife sat through the hearing, breaking down in tears at times and dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief.
Sta. Isabel reiterated his claim that Jee’s abduction and murder were orchestrated by Dumlao and Senior Supt. Allan Macapagal of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
“They went to my house with a list of police officers to be killed. They said these are the ones I will identify to make it appear that they are the ones who kidnapped the Korean,” he told the senators. Sta. Isabel said he refused, saying “I can’t identify those who I did not see.”
Dumlao denied Sta. Isabel’s claims.
To counter Sta. Isabel’s claims, Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Morquicho to identify the officer. Morquicho confirmed Sta. Isabel was the man who entered the house and the one who made the ATM withdrawal.
Under Sen. Grace Poe’s questioning, Morquicho spoke of hearing Sta. Isabel speaking to someone on the phone at Jee’s house whom she said he called “boss.”
“I heard he asked if it’s positive or negative … He said negative (no drugs were found),” said Morquicho, who appeared at the hearing with her face fully concealed.
Dela Rosa conceded that the incident happened just as the AIDG’s top officials led by Senior Supt. Albert Ferro were out of the country, fetching confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, who was captured in Abu Dhabi in October.
“In that case I admit that there was no control,” Dela Rosa said. “That’s why at the time, Dumlao and Sta. Isabel were able to pull off their misdeeds.”
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new power plant in Sarangani on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said the government had identified the killers of Jee.
“I can assure you those responsible are known to us already and they will have to go to prison, and I will see to it that they are sentenced to the maximum,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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