MANILA - A Pampanga court has allowed a police officer tagged in the 2016 abduction and slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo to turn state witness.
In an order dated January 3, 2018, the Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 granted the Department of Justice's motion to turn SPO4 Roy Villegas into a state witness, citing "absolute necessity."
The court, presided by Judge Ireneo Pangilinan Jr., also said SPO4 Villegas does not appear to be the most guilty among the suspects and has met all legal requirements by the court.
The police officer had admitted to participating in what he thought was a legitimate police operation when Jee was taken from his Angeles City home in the guise of a drug raid on Oct. 18, 2016.
It was Villegas who said in a sworn statement that Jee was strangled to death inside Camp Crame.
He was among police officers earlier indicted for kidnapping with homicide, along with fellow police officer SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and former police officer Gerardo Santiago, owner of the funeral parlor where Jee's body was brought then cremated.
Villegas and Sta. Isabel, along with Supt. Rafael Dumlao, former official at the defunct Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, and errand boy Jerry Omlang, were also charged in court for the abduction of Jee’s househelp, Marisa Morquicho.
Morquicho was taken with Jee but was let go when the South Korean had been brought to Manila.
While Jee was killed on the same day he was taken, his abductors were able to collect a P5-million ransom from his wife Choi Kyung-jin two weeks later. .
The DOJ, meanwhile, hailed the court's decision, saying Jee's wife would be happy with this development. Villegas will be presented as state witness on January 11 as ordered by the court.
Jee's abduction and slay exposed police abuse in the administration's war on drugs, briefly suspended anti-drug operations, and prompted police cleansing.
His disappearance was first publicly known a year ago, when his wife came out in media and issued an appeal for abductors to surface her husband. Police confirmed his killing weeks later.
President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to South Korea for the incident. --report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News