MANILA — A South Korean businessman was strangled at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police last year by officers who later extorted ransom money from his family under the pretense that he was alive, the Philippine Department of Justice said Thursday.
The department said the officers had seized Jee Ick-joo, 53, at his home in a Manila suburb in October under the pretense of a drug raid and had then taken him to police headquarters and killed him. Rights groups tied the killing to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, saying that the officers had been emboldened by Duterte’s promise to shield from prosecution those involved in the crackdown.
The national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, a close aide to Duterte, expressed anger over the incident, but he said it was an “isolated” case and not part of the anti-drug campaign.
The rogue officers were led by an anti-narcotics officer, Ricky Santa Isabel, the Justice Department said in a resolution recommending that charges be filed. It said Santa Isabel, another police officer named Roy Villegas, a civilian, and several other people whose names were not released should be charged with homicide and kidnapping for ransom. Santa Isabel and Villegas were in custody Thursday.
According to the Justice Department, the officers detained Jee at his home Oct. 18. No evidence that Jee was involved in drugs has been produced. He worked for Hanjin Heavy Industries, a South Korean shipbuilder, according to the police.
Villegas said in a sworn statement that Santa Isabel had led the operation and had killed Jee at police headquarters, wrapping his head in packing tape and strangling him, according to the Justice Department.