What did we do to deserve this?
Every day brings fresh news of a new depth of depravity plumbed in the case of the South Korean businessman kidnapped, and then killed, by policemen under the aegis of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and crime.
A summary of what is known so far is enough to bring on bone-chilling horror:
The businessman, Jee Ick-joo, was taken from his home in Angeles City in October 2016, along with a housemaid, by a band of armed men who had barged into the house announcing a drug raid. Some P540,000 in jewelry and other valuables also went missing, per the account of Jee’s wife. The leader of the raiding party was identified as a cop: SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, from the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame.
The housemaid was eventually released, while Jee remained in the car with his captors. According to the case paper submitted by the PNP to the Department of Justice recommending charges of kidnapping for ransom with homicide against Sta. Isabel et al., Jee was brought right into Camp Crame, bound with packaging tape, and strangled by Sta. Isabel.
The murder was perpetrated in Jee’s car, a black Explorer, which his abductors parked just outside the buildings of the PNP’s public information office and police community relations group. As this paper also noted in a report, “The crime scene was also just a few steps away from the office of PNP chief Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa and his official residence, the so-called ‘White House,’ inside the police headquarters.”
Even while Jee was killed on the day of his abduction, Sta. Isabel demanded ransom from the businessman’s wife, who subsequently paid P5 million. Sta. Isabel was captured on CCTV in Greenhills using the wife’s ATM card to withdraw the money. Perversely, even if they did not produce Jee after the ransom payment, the cops demanded another P4.5 million.
One of Sta. Isabel’s cohorts, SP04 Roy Villegas, has said in an affidavit that he overheard Sta. Isabel talking to one “Sir Dumlao” on the phone before the latter strangled Jee. Sta. Isabel then called a certain “Ding” and arranged to have the body received by a funeral parlor in Caloocan City in exchange for P30,000 and a golf set.
Jee’s body was brought to the Caloocan funeral parlor. But because the facility was not equipped for cremation, the body was transferred to another facility in La Loma, where it was cremated. It is said that Jee’s ashes were then flushed down the toilet.
When the “tokhang for ransom” crime came to light through an exclusive report by the Inquirer earlier this month and Sta. Isabel seemed nowhere to be found, Dela Rosa demanded on TV that his subordinate surrender or be shot on sight. It would turn out that Sta. Isabel was not in hiding at all; he had merely transferred offices, all within Camp Crame. He subsequently hired two lawyers before turning in his badge and resigning from the police force.
As an observer quipped on social media, is it now “Camp Crame or Camp Crime?” The question is not entirely facetious: The Duterte administration gave cops carte blanche authority to do as they pleased in the name of the war on drugs. None of them would go to jail, and a pardon would await anyone prosecuted in the line of duty, President Duterte himself announced.
It’s not much of a stretch to see how Sta. Isabel et al. saw in that atmosphere of special empowerment a golden opportunity to commit the horrific crime and get away with it, with the war on drugs excusing most anything. The sense of impunity seemed boundless with the murder by cops happening inside the PNP headquarters, the very seat of law enforcement in the country.
At the National Bureau of Investigation, Choi Kyung-jin, Jee’s wife, poignantly lamented: What did we do to deserve this?
It’s a question that many Filipinos are beginning to ask as well as they survey the bloody and debased state of law and order in the country.