MANILA - State prosecutors have reiterated their plea for the inhibition of the Angeles City judge who allowed the prime suspect in the October 2016 kidnap-slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo to post bail, saying they had lost trust in her impartiality over "clear badges" of bias.
In a motion filed on Aug. 7, prosecutors led by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon cited as additional basis the actions of Angeles City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56 Judge Irin Zenaida Buan in denying their initial plea for inhibition.
In May, prosecutors asked Buan to inhibit from 3 cases she is handling after she allowed Police Lt. Col. Rafael Dumlao III to post bail while denying the similar plea of co-accused Police Chief Master Sgt. Ricky Sta. Isabel and former National Bureau of Investigation agent Jerry Omlang.
According to the prosecutors, Buan allegedly sat on the motion for 2 months, rejecting it in open court only during the July 31 hearing, in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to administer justice "impartially and without delay."
"The People and private complainant, whose husband was unlawfully taken and brutally murdered by the accused in these cases (as masterminded by accused Dumlao), cannot fathom and are profoundly disturbed with the way the Presiding Judge cavalierly resolved the pending incidents in these cases and by her obvious obstinacy to cling to the instant cases instead of inhibiting from them for unknown reasons," the prosecutors said.
"Thus, the People and the private complainant are now even more inclined to move for the inhibition of the Presiding Judge. Her subsequent actions and later orders indicate clear badges of partiality and bias in favor or accused Dumlao," the said.
They added that they have "undoubtedly and irretrievably lost their trust and confidence that the Presiding Judge will hear the cases with utmost fairness, impartiality and probity."
Dumlao is accused of masterminding Jee's kidnapping and killing in October 2016, for which he is facing a kidnapping for ransom with homicide charge.
He is also facing 2 other criminal cases along with 3 other suspects: kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Jee's helper, Marissa Morquicho, and the carnapping of Jee's sports utility vehicle.
In the guise of an anti-drug raid, Jee was taken from his Angeles City home along with his househelp on Oct. 18, 2016. Upon reaching Manila, Morquicho was released.
Jee was, however, killed inside Camp Crame. His body was later brought to a funeral home where it was cremated, with the ashes flushed down the toilet.
While he had been slain, his abductors still demanded and received ransom from his wife weeks later.
In April, Buan granted Dumlao bail after finding that the evidence against him is not strong and that prosecution witnesses have not proven a particular act that clearly established his complicity in Jee's abduction and slay.
In their first motion, prosecutors argued Buan did not consider the statements of former co-accused turned state witness SPO4 Roy Villegas who claimed that Dumlao harassed and threatened him not to identify Dumlao as one of the perpetrators.
Villegas tagged Sta. Isabel as the one who killed Jee, a claim Sta. Isabel denied.
Villegas also said Dumlao was the team leader of the "bogus" operation to abduct Jee while PO2 Baldovino testified it was Dumlao who gave instructions to Sta. Isabel and later on ordered him to execute affidavits and pin the blame on Sta. Isabel.
Insisting that Dumlao was part of the conspiracy as he was the "team leader, their mastermind, and was the instigator of the crime," prosecutors said Buan's grant of bail solely to Dumlao "smacks of discriminatory treatment to the other accused, who are similarly situated as co-conspirators."
"[T]he Presiding Judge should have treated them similarly and denied all of them bail. But she did not. She must therefore stand down from these cases and let another objective judge see the evidence with a fresh eye," they said.
"The repercussions of the Presiding Judge's illogical Order reverberate not just in the four walls of her courtroom but also to the international community, who now rely on a fair and impartial Philippine judicial system to protect the lives and property of foreign visitors and investors," they warned.
Aside from asking for Buan's inhibition, prosecutors also asked the court to defer ruling on their motion for partial reconsideration challenging the grant of bail to Dumlao.
The killing of Jee had sparked international outrage against the Philippine government's war on drugs. The case prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to apologize to the South Korean government for Jee's death and for the police to initiate a crackdown against abusive officers.