February 23, 2017
POE: DEEPER PROBE TO PIN DOWN SUSPECTS IN KOREAN KIDNAP-SLAY
Sen. Grace Poe today urged authorities to probe further the seeming "pattern" of destroying evidence by suspects and "persons of interest" involved in the kidnap-slay of a South Korean trader to exculpate themselves from possible past criminal liabilities.
Poe, vice chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police should sift through, in particular, the records of Gream Funeral Homes to determine if the bodies being brought there match with death certificates. The funeral home is located in Brgy. 165-Bagbaguin, Caloocan City owned by former cop-turned village chief Gerardo Gregorio Santiago where the slain Jee Ick-Joo's ashes were flushed down the toilet.
"Whoever was in charge [of the investigation] would have been more proactive about this because this is how they are hiding or destroying evidence, through this funeral parlor," Poe said, referring to the actions of Santiago and the staff of the funeral home in flushing down the toilet the ashes of Korean trader Jee Ick-Joo last Jan. 16, three months after his remains were cremated in a different facility and just a few days after Santiago flew to Canada.
Jee was abducted from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga, on Oct. 18, 2016, and was killed inside Camp Crame on the same day. It was reported that the South Korean national was cremated at the St. Nathaniel Crematory in La Loma, Quezon City as Jose Ruamar Salvador, a Filipino, of Champaca St., Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan City, with a staff of Gream Funeral identifying herself as representative of Jee's family and making a reservation for cremation. Jee's ashes were later brought to Santiago's funeral home.
Pressed by Poe, Santiago refused to answer whether he was the one who ordered his staff at his funeral home to dispose of Jee's ashes and instead invoked his right against self-incrimination.
Epephay Gotera, employee of Gream Funeral Homes, however, told in her affidavit that it was Santiago who ordered the funeral staff to flush Jee's ashes, NBI assistant director Medardo Delemos told Senate probers.
"Invoking your right against self-incrimination ay mas napapalinaw ang kasagutan dito kasi kung talagang wala ka naman ginawang ganun ay mabilis dapat ang sagot doon at sabihing hindi nangyari yun," Poe said. "Kung wala naman po talaga kayo kinalaman sa isang bagay, natural lang sa isang tao na sabihin, 'wala akong kinalaman diyan' imbes na dumaan pa sa teknikal na pamamaraan."
Santiago, village chief of Barangay 165-Bagbaguin in Caloocan City, fled to Canada on Jan. 11, a few days after the kidnap-slay of Jee was reported in the media. He took a leave of absence from his duties as chairman from Jan. 10 to Feb. 10. He used to be the deputy chief of the Caloocan City Police with the rank of Senior Police Officer 4 before he took optional retirement in 2004.
"I think we should be strict about this considering this might be a pattern. I think we should look into this. Perhaps in the meantime put them on probation. Maybe suspend operations while you are conducting or reconciling the paperwork with other past cremated bodies," Poe added.
NBI director Dante Gierran also pointed out a clear violation of Santiago's funeral parlor which deliberately failed to notify them about the death of the Korean businessman so that the NBI could have conducted an autopsy.
"Dapat ang funeral tatawag sa NBI para mag-conduct ng autopsy, especially if the death was questionable," Gierran said, adding that Gream Funeral was an NBI-accredited funeral home.
Delemos said they will look into the culpability of persons of interest and will forward their recommendations to the "appropriate agency."
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