Jee widow: Cop turned state witness crucial in pinning husband’s killers

Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2018 01:41 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2018 05:05 PM

Choi Kyung-jin, widow of slain South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo seen here in this file photo, is frustrated at the slow pace of the trial on her husband's case. Several police officers are tagged in Jee's kidnapping and murder on Oct. 18, 2016 inside Camp Crame. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

But laments slow pace of trial

MANILA - The widow of slain South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo has welcomed an Angeles court’s grant to turn one of the police suspects in her husband’s slay into a state witness even as she expressed frustration over the slow pace of trial. 
In comments sent to ABS-CBN News, Choi Kyung-jin, who bravely came out in media a year ago to appeal for her husband’s life, cited how crucial a witness SPO4 Roy Villegas is in her quest for justice.

“I am glad that SPO4 Villegas has been approved as a state witness… I believe that the testimony of Villegas will be of great help in determining the guilt of the criminals,” said Choi in responses Wednesday night. 

“I am in favor of [Villegas’] national witness application,” she added. 

The Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 had this week granted the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request to place Villegas under the witness protection program. 

This discharges Villegas as an accused and effectively absolves him of the crime. 

It was Villegas who had bared in a sworn statement that the businessman was killed within the grounds of the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame on the same day he was abducted from his Angeles City home on Oct. 18, 2016. 

In narrating Jee's killing at a Senate hearing, Villegas tagged fellow police officer SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel in the slay, the first documented case of a “tokhang for ransom,” or a kidnapping for ransom in the guise of a drug raid. 

Unrelenting in seeking justice despite the challenges, Choi expressed disappointment over her struggle. 

It had taken her public appeal in January last year for police to speed up its investigation into her husband’s disappearance 3 months earlier. 

Only when she had aired appeals to the President and the police chief in media was her husband’s fate known: Jee had been dead since the day he was taken. All along, she had hoped to get him back alive. 

“The trial speed is too slow for me. Time seems to have stopped only for me,” she told ABS-CBN News.

She said she had hoped for the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) to take the investigation deeper.

“I wanted AKG to do more active investigations. I have a lot of complaints and sadness about their methods and proceedings. It takes a child to know that the criminals who are now imprisoned are not all [of them],” she said. 

“Those who planned and directed this kidnapping-murder will still be hiding where they are. The Philippine government does not seem to have the will to take the killer,” she said. 

Sought for comment, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, the lead prosecutor handling the case, said the court had acted with dispatch on the plea. 

"The court acted properly in discharging SPO4 Villegas based on clear evidence," he said. 

"While understandably, Mrs. Choi would like the process to move faster, on balance, we think the court acted on the motion speedily and efficiently," Navera added. 

Jee’s slay had triggered a pause in the PNP’s fierce drug war, internal cleansing within police ranks, and an apology from President Rodrigo Duterte to South Korea. 

PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa also apologized to the South Korean community in the Philippines over the incident.