Aguirre orders probe of ‘ambush,’ ‘Korean mafia’ claims
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Saturday he had ordered an investigation of claims he made over the past week that were unverified by authorities or denied by the parties concerned.
Aguirre said the probe was being carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation to determine the veracity of a reported “ambush” of an alleged informant and the possible involvement of an organized Korean criminal gang in the kidnapping and murder last year of Jee Ick-joo, a Korean businessman.
Aguirre said on Friday that Lalaine Madrigal Martinez, the woman who told him of an alleged P100-million bribe offer to several high-profile convicts to recant their testimonies linking the now detained Sen. Leila de Lima to the illegal drug trade, had been ambushed somewhere near the old Santa Ana race track. But both the Makati and Manila police denied responding to such an incident.
Martinez is the wife of convicted kidnapper Noel Martinez, who is among eight inmates who testified against De Lima before the House of Representatives drug inquiry last year.
“We will come out with a statement after the NBI has finished with its ongoing investigation of the supposed ambush on Lalaine Madrigal Martinez,” Aguirre told the Inquirer on Saturday.
When pressed whether such an incident had indeed occurred, Aguirre said: “Please wait for the investigation to be finished.”
Individuals that Aguirre had tagged in the alleged bribe try, former Sen. Jamby Madrigal and incumbent Laguna Rep. Marlyn Alonte, also issued separate denials of the claims. Madrigal has demanded an apology from Aguirre while Alonte said she was surprised by the allegation.
That embarrassing incident came shortly after the official was forced to explain to South Korean envoy Kim Jae-shi, the embassy’s police attache and a consul, the statement he made before a Senate inquiry that a Korean mafia was behind Jee’s slay.
Jee’s abduction and murder allegedly by rogue cops last year was first reported by the Inquirer. Astonishing details of the crime later emerged, forcing President Duterte to apologize to Seoul and temporarily freeze his antinarcotics program that has left over 7,000 people dead to date.
“The ambassador told us that it put the embassy and its officials in bad light. I explained to them the reason behind my statements and it helped in clearing the apparent misunderstanding regarding my statements at the Senate hearing,” Aguirre said.
“In the end, the ambassador gave the NBI the go-signal to investigate any involvement of the Korean mafia, if there is any, in the abduction and killing of Mr. Jee Ick-joo. On my part, I undertake to inform him of the result of the investigation,” he stressed.
Officials from both the NBI and the Philippine National Police said in the same hearing that they found no evidence that could link a so-called Korean mafia to Jee’s Oct. 18, 2016 murder.
In its statement, the Korean Embassy called Aguirre’s information “wrong and unfounded” and sought “concrete evidence that substantiates his remarks.”/rga