MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government on Tuesday, January 24, apologized for the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the hands of local police.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella conveyed the assurance of the Philippines to the government and people of South Korea, that the suspects in the crime would be duly punished.
"We apologize to the South Korean government and people for this irreparable loss but we commit the full force of the law to ensure that justice is served and not delayed. To the Korean people, please accept our sincerest and deepest regrets," Abella said.
He relayed the sympathies of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Filipino people to the family of the businessman.
"We wish to take this occasion to express the condolences and sympathies of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Philippine people to Mrs Choi Kyung-jin, the widow of Mr Jee Ick Joo, the South Korea national who met an untimely death while in police custody," Abella said.
The Palace spokesman issued the statement days after the National Bureau of Investigation revealed in its report to the Department of Justice that Jee, then regarded as a kidnap-for-ransom victim, was murdered by police inside Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Critics cited Jee's death as proof that the Duterte administration and PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa have lost control of the police. (READ: Murder inside Crame: A tangled tale of crime)
The incident has also fueled suspicions of human rights groups that the police is using the Duterte administration's controversial drug war as a smokescreen for other crimes like kidnap-for-ransom.
The NBI probe concluded that police abducted Jee from his Pampanga home on the pretext of a drug investigation. It was discovered that Jee was killed hours after his abduction on October 18, 2016, allegedly inside a car parked in Camp Crame, just meters away from the official residence of the PNP chief.
Weeks after his murder, the suspects reportedly demanded P5 million in ransom from Jee's wife, which was paid, and then asked for another P4.5 million.
"We will not tolerate corrupt, abusive, errant policemen who betray the organization and the men and women in uniform who continue their faithful, dedicated, and loyal service to the country," said Malacañang.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.