Duterte apologises over police killing of S. Korean

Ricky Sta. Isabel (centre), one of the suspects in the murder of businessman Jee Ick Joo, at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila last Friday.
Ricky Sta. Isabel (centre), one of the suspects in the murder of businessman Jee Ick Joo, at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila last Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Manila promises his family justice after businessman strangled in police HQ

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has apologised to the bereaved family of South Korean Jee Ick Joo over the grisly kidnapping and killing of the businessman by rogue police officers.

Mr Jee, abducted in a fake anti- drug operation on Oct 18 last year, was strangled inside the national police headquarters in Manila.

However, thinking that he was still alive, his wife paid about US$100,000 (S$142,000) in ransom, authorities said last week.

"We wish to take this occasion to express the condolences and sympathies of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Filipino people to Mrs Choi Kyung Jin, widow of Jee Ick Joo, the South Korean national who met untimely death while in police custody," said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in a press briefing yesterday.

The murder of Mr Jee has shocked and angered the South Korean government, with Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se demanding those behind the crime be brought to justice.

Mr Abella assured Mr Jee's family that justice would be served, and also apologised "to the South Korean government and people for this irreparable loss".

In a separate case, the Philippine police yesterday said some of its officers had robbed and extorted money from three South Korean golfers in the same gated subdivision where Mr Jee was kidnapped.

"They came to the Philippines just to play golf but they went through a traumatic experience," Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino, the regional police head, told Agence France-Presse.

He said the three South Koreans had been staying in an upscale gated community in Angeles City, about two hours' drive north of Manila, when policemen barged into their house under the pretext of carrying out an illegal gambling raid on Dec 30.

They robbed the South Koreans of their computers, jewellery, golf clubs, golf shoes and 10,000 pesos (S$285), according to Mr Aquino.

He said the three South Koreans were then held at a police station for about eight hours until a friend paid 300,000 pesos for their freedom.

The three reported the incident to the South Korean embassy, which informed the national police, said Mr Aquino.

This led to an investigation that implicated seven policemen, according to Mr Aquino, who said they all faced the sack.

However, he said the officers would not face criminal charges because that would require the South Koreans, who had fled, to return to the Philippines.

"They don't want to come back. They are terrified," he said.

Mr Aquino said the latest incident was not related to Mr Jee's case, but he suspected that rogue policemen had targeted many South Koreans in the Angeles area.

"I suspect there are many such incidents but most of the crimes committed against the South Koreans are not being reported. They are all afraid," he said.

The police have come under intense scrutiny in Mr Duterte's efforts to eradicate illegal drugs, with human rights groups accusing them of mass extrajudicial killings.

Mr Duterte has vowed to shield police from any murder charges, and said he accepts them getting "sideline" money as long as it is not from drug-related activities.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte apologises over police killing of S. Korean'. Print Edition | Subscribe