News about the gruesome death of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, 53, abducted and killed by policemen under the aegis of the administration’s war on drugs, has caught international attention and has been the subject of a Senate investigation. Being an optimist, I did not believe we could sink any lower after the war on drugs or Oplan Tokhang also claimed the lives of infants and pregnant women. Collateral damage, as they say.
But Jee’s case really plumbed the depths of irresponsibility and depravity. Imagine a kidnap victim killed right inside the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, just a few steps away from the residence of the PNP chief, Ronald de la Rosa. Jee’s wife, Choi Kyung-jin, said Jee and a housemaid were taken from his home in Angeles City last Oct. 18 by policemen who barged into the house announcing a drug raid. The policemen, led by SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, from the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, hauled the victims into a van and apparently took with them some P540,000 in jewelry, cash and other valuables.
The murder was perpetrated in the van, which was parked just outside the buildings of the PNP’s public information office and police community relations group. Sta. Isabel demanded ransom from Jee’s wife, who subsequently paid P5 million. Sta. Isabel was captured on CCTV in Greenhills, San Juan using Choi’s ATM card to withdraw money. When the cops failed to release Jee and demanded an additional P4.5 million, Choi reported the abduction.
“What did we do to deserve this?” asked Choi.
A quip on social media said it succinctly and correctly: Is the PNP now “Camp Crame or Camp Crime?” But what do you expect? Abusive policemen had been given blanket authority to kill. “Ako ang bahala sa inyo,” President Duterte repeatedly promised them. Remember how Duterte himself announced that no policeman would go to jail or be prosecuted if they killed someone in the line of duty, especially in the war on drugs. Of course, Duterte did not ask them to commit crimes to make money. But what is to stop the policemen from interpreting the presidential assurance as a blanket protection to do as they please? De la Rosa even had the gall to downplay Jee’s kidnap-slaying as an “isolated case” during the Senate hearing. Fortunately, he was promptly corrected by Sen. Panfilo Lacson who not only showed a video of cops planting “shabu” and stealing from victims, but also disclosed at least 11 other kidnap-for-ransom cases arising from Oplan Tokhang.
Our group, the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order, had earlier reported these “tokhang-for-ransom” cases to the senator, who chairs the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs investigating Oplan Tokhang. The incidents happened as early as July, during Duterte’s first month in office and when the operation was gathering steam. The victims were Chinese nationals held for one to two days until they paid up. But fearing reprisals, most of them have refused to comfort forward to file complaints or testify against the rogue cops.
Adding insult to injury, we have a Secretary of Justice diverting attention away from the problem of police abuses by floating the ridiculous notion that it may be a destabilization plot. He’s giving the so-called “Yellow Ribbon” group of the administration too much credit. They cannot even win an election, much less plot an incredible murder of a Korean businessman to undermine the Duterte administration. Some sectors are demanding the resignation of De la Rosa.
Meanwhile, the PNP chief, on orders of the president, disbanded the AIDG and suspended Oplan Tokhang nationwide. The Senate, in turn, suspended its inquiry into Tokhang. But will that solve our problem? Law enforcers have the penchant to solve problems by creating new and bigger problems. Disregarding the time-honored rule of law will continue to create bigger and deeper social problems.
Miss Universe pageant
We are happy for the goodwill and publicity generated by the Miss Universe pageant held in the Philippines on Jan. 30. We were able to showcase the truly lupang hinirang of beautiful land and seascapes as well as the honest, hardworking, friendly and hospitable Filipinos.
Days before the coronation day, Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City’s second district called on Malacañang to declare Jan. 30 a non-working holiday. He said the special holiday would allow Filipinos to watch the much-awaited pageant and support Miss Philippines Maxine Medina.
Our obsession with beauty pageants that date back to Spanish and American era is just too much. Check out French newspapers and how they reported Miss France winning the title. Notice the difference with the whole week of obsession with Pia Wurtzback when she won the title last year.
Exploitation of fear
Weighing in on US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on his show “GPS” on Jan. 29, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria called the refugees and foreign nationals affected by the order the “roadkill of Trump’s posturing.”
Zakaria quoted a study by Alex Nowrasteh of the CATO Institute, a conservative think tank that has tallied the number of Americans killed on American soil from 1975 to 2015 by citizens of the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. The count: ZERO. As to how these countries were singled out, Zakaria said it was “truly mysterious.” But he astutely pointed out: “None of the Muslim majority countries that have a Trump hotel, building or office are on the list.”
He said the ban has “no rational basis” and can only be explained by what he considered to be the hallmark of Trump’s political career: “the exploitation of fear.”
“From the birther campaign to the talk of Mexican rapists, Trump has always trafficked in fear mongering,” he said.
Trump has obviously forgotten that America’s strength lies in its diversity. He seems oblivious of what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes and the words inscribed on it: “Give me your tired, your poor, the restless wretched souls from your teeming shores.”
Good of Canadian President Justin Trudeau to step in and announce that those “fleeing from persecution, terror and war, we welcome you.”