Grisly details of the murder by strangulation of kidnapped Korean Ji Ick Joo at national police headquarters have been heard at a senate hearing.
Rogue cops suspected of carrying out the crime under the cover of the war against drugs have been giving their — often contradictory — accounts of the killing.
Yesterday (Thursday, February 23) it was the turn of Roy Villegas, who told the hearing that it only took “a few seconds” for officer Ricky Santa Isabel to strangle Mr Ji with a steering wheel lock.
“It was like he was garrotted,” fellow officer Villegas told the senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which is investigating the killing last October.
“They placed the cord, put the metal around him, then twisted it,” he said in response to a question from Senator Bam Aquino.
“And Ji Ick-joo was killed?” Aquino asked.
“Yes sir. It only took a quick moment. But I didn’t look, even the driver beside me didn’t look. At the first or second twist, I didn’t look anymore,” he replied.
Villegas said that as well as himself, two other officers were at the scene of the murder. He identified them as Jerry Omlang, of the National Bureau of investigation and a driver whose name he didn’t know.
Appearing for the first time before the senate committee, Villegas described how they abducted Mr Ji from his home in Angeles City in what he claims he thought was a legitimate operation on October 18 last year.
He said they were a group of five — including Santa Isabel, Omlang, the driver and a certain “Pulis” — that took Mr Ji and his house helper, Marissa Morquicho, who was later freed.
Villegas said they drove Mr Ji to Camp Crame in Quezon City. Santa Isabel, he said, was in another vehicle, while he boarded a van with Mr Ji and the house help.
When they arrived at Camp Crame, Villegas said he saw Police Superintendent Raphael Dumlao talking to Santa Isabel. He said he couldn’t hear what the two were saying, as he had been commanded to stay inside the vehicle.
He said that Omlang then came and transferred the house helper to a pick-up vehicle.
Villegas said they were then told to transfer to ‘the Oval’ where he again saw Dumlao talking to Santa Isabel. While there, three unidentified men came, and one of them became their new driver. The original driver left the scene.
From the Oval, Villegas said the new driver took them back to the training service parking area.
It was at this point, he alleged, that Santa Isabel returned with a plastic bag containing surgical gloves and brown packaging tape.
“It was handed to us, to me, at the door. We were told to wear the gloves… we had doubts and were afraid, even the driver beside me was becoming apprehensive.
Villegas said Omlang showed up again and was ordered by Santa Isabel to wrap Mr Ji’s head with the packing tape.
“There were four of us there… Jerry came in and wrapped his head… the victim was already having a hard time breathing.”
He said Omlang left and Santa Isabel returned, carrying what appeared to be a steering wheel lock.
Villegas said he then heard Santa Isabel asking Mr Ji: “Do you know this?”
“He held the metal against Ji Ick-joo’s leg… it was dark inside but the metal seemed like it was a steering wheel lock but I’m not sure. He put it on Ji’s neck.”
Villegas said that he and the driver wanted to go out of the vehicle at that point, but they were stopped by Santa Isabel.
“Ricky stopped us. ‘We’re in this together, no one gets left behind’, he said.”
Santa Isabel, who was also at the hearing, emphatically denied Villegas’ version of events. He also reiterated his claim that he was not part of the team that kidnapped the victim.
Omlang has also denied that he was present when Santa Isabel allegedly strangled Mr Ji just yards from the office of national police chief Ronald de la Rosa.
The hearing continues.