Angeles judge recuses self from Jee Ick Joo cases

MANILA Another judge handling the case arising from the death of South Korean businessan Jee Ick Joo has inhibited from trying the controversy.

Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 56 Judge Irin Zenaida Buan recused herself from ruling on the second motion filed by the Department of Justice prosecution panel for her to inhibit from the case.

"To continue trying these cases (despite the previous denial of the first motion for inhibition) will already be counter-productive if not prejudicial to the Presiding Judge," the Court explained.

"To insist on trying these cases despite a continuing call for recusal will already conjure an erroneous image of a judge holding on to a case under a continuous cloud of doubt," she said.

Aside from the prosecution, accused Police Chief Master Sgt. Ricky Sta. Isabel and Jerry Omlang filed separate motions asking that she inhibit from the case.

Last May 23, the panel of prosecutor sought her inhibition but Buan denied the motion last July 31.

The team of prosecutors said Buan denied their motion almost two months after it was filed but they have yet to receive a copy of her order, thus, they opted to file a second motion.

The second motion was filed also upon orders of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.

In their first motion filed on August 7, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Richard Anthony D. Fadullon asked Buan to voluntarily inhibit herself from the case.

The motion was also signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro C. Navera, Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas, and Ethel Rea G. Suril.

The judge had granted the petition for bail of Police Supt. Rafael P. Dumlao III, despite the positive testimonies of discharged state witness Roy Villegas that he was part of the conspiracy in the kidnapping for ransom of Jee, being the alleged team leader, mastermind, and instigator of the crime.

Jee was kidnapped by two unidentified men from their residence in Friendship Plaza Subdivision, Angeles, Pampanga on Oct. 18, 2016.

After their arrest, the kidnappers�who turned out to be members of the Philippine National Police (PNP)�accused Jee of being involved in the illegal drug trade.

Jee's wife, Choi Kyung-jin, made the statement that one of the kidnappers, Patrick Joseph Banez, demanded a ransom of PHP8 million, and she reportedly paid PH5 million on Oct. 30, 2016.

On Jan. 17, 2017, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) went to a funeral parlor in Bagbaguin, Caloocan where the body of Jee was believed to have been brought and where his remains were cremated and his ashes flushed down the toilet.

The panel said Buan's subsequent actions and later orders indicate clear badges of partiality in favor of Dumlao and the other accused in the case, such as when she persisted to set periods to file pleadings from both parties despite the opposition of the prosecution who contend that the proceedings be deferred pending the issuance of the order on the motion for inhibition.

The prosecution said that Buan granted Dumlao's petition for bail despite the fact that Villegas told the court that he harassed and even threatened him not to implicate him and not to identify him as one of the perpetrators.

Aside from Dumlao, Police Chief Master Sergeant (formerly SPO3) Ricky Sta. Isabel and Gerry Omlang, the DOJ also charged Gerardo "Ding" Santiago, the owner of the Gream Funeral Services in Caloocan City where the body of the victim was brought, and Villegas for kidnapping for ransom with homicide case.

Police Master Sergeant Villegas was later discharged as state witness while Santiago's case was downgraded to being that of an accessory. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency