Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Breaking news to his SK counterpart about Korean executive's murder has to be Foreign Secretary Yasay’s toughest job. How PNP officials committed unspeakable crime right in Crame boggles the mind. In other climes Bato’s resignation would be demanded, but since he was less than four months into job when kidnap happened---and Pinoys are forgiving---no groundswell clamor. With Digong’s backing and lots of prayer and courage, Bato might still turn despicable PNP into something we can be proud of and not fear.

Murdered South Korean Hanjin Executive Jee Ick Joo

It was doubtless the toughest job for Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay:  how to tell his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se,  that SK business executive Jee Ick Joo---who was abducted by a group led by three police officials last October 18 from his home in Angeles City on the pretext of a drug bust---was already dead. 

Testimonies indicate that Joo was strangled by his abductors in THE PNP HEADQUARTERS IN CAMP CRAME ITSELF, NOT FAR FROM PNP CHIEF RONALD DE LA ROSA'S OFFICE, THE SAME DAY THAT HE WAS KIDNAPPED. Then his remains were later cremated in a Caloocan funeral parlor and flushed down a toilet. To ensure that the crime would remain hushed, the crematorium proprietor was paid P30,000 plus the golf set owned by the murdered man as bonus. 

It was a crime beyond the imagination of pulp novels. It's a crime that cries to high heavens for retribution.

News of  the Korean executive's kidnap had hogged front pages of PH and SK newspapers since his wife, Choy Kyung Jin, came out in media to denounce the failure of his kidnappers to ascertain his safety---after she had paid an initial P5 million ransom for him. What made it even more reprehensible for the wife was that two weeks later, the abductors came back to demand P4 million more which she could no longer afford, but still no guarantee that he was alive.   

The SK Foreign Minister demanded answers---AND JUSTICE, rightly so---from Foreign Secretary Yasay on the welfare of Joo, who had been working in the Philippines since 2008. But what answers could our government give the SK government, our fellow Asian country and part of the economically-powerful triangular axis of Japan, China and SK---except perhaps to say that this crime has to be the most heinous and horrifying in recent memory in our country.

It is also the most loaded with REPERCUSSIONS for PH business and economy and for the Duterte administration. At the time of his kidnap-murder Joo was working with the SK giant shipping firm Hanjin Corporation, one of the many aggressive  South Korean companies all over Asia and the world.

President Duterte just has to step in and clean up the image of the PNP as the most corrupt institution in this country.


Unfortunately for the PNP it was a double black-eye, as the crime had targeted a foreign national and his government is now raising many questions about our police institution's capability to run after criminality in the Philippines and protect both its citizens as well as FOREIGN WORKERS.    

As an observer put it, why did the PNP officers have to execute the SK executive in Camp Crame itself, when it could have been done in, say, a deserted cemetery? It was BIZARRE, BARBAROUS AND BRAZEN. As a man I spoke to queried, had the PNP officers no regard whatsoever for the institution that they serve? 

The bigger query seems to be: HAVE THE PERPETRATORS NO FEAR OF THE LAW? Has the PNP organization sunk that low? 


This heinous crime will undoubtedly affect the credibility of the PNP which should be rock-solid if the Duterte administration is to make the Filipino people---and the world---accept the integrity and sincerity of its ruthless campaign against illegal drugs. By now, that campaign has resulted in the slaying of over 6,000 people---supposedly drug addicts---majority of them classified as “extra-judicial killings” with the victims coming mainly from the ranks of the poor. 

With the slaying of SK executive Jee by PNP personnel in the guise of an anti-illegal drug pursuit, President Duterte’s campaign will provoke queries about the credibility of the PNP's involvement. Just what's a valid anti-illegal drug campaign and what's mere kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) disguised as anti-drug?

This terrible blot in the PNP’s existence would also affect our standing in the foreign business community as it would show that securing  foreign nationals working here does not seem to be its priority. The Koreans are among the most active business groups in this country, with many billions of investments and hundreds of Korean nationals working all over the Philippines and Asia. 

Moreover, South Korea is the top tourist group and top spender in our country. In 2016, more than a million SK tourists came, and they spent an aggregate amount of P5.65 billion here from January to November of that year alone. Will they now come after their compatriot's bizarre slaying? 


More than anything, the terrible crime against the SK executive would gravely affect the fate of the bill  being deliberated in both chambers of Congress, that calls for THE REVIVAL OF THE DEATH PENALTY here. Over the years, I have been against re-imposition of the death penalty as I believe that only God has the right to take away life. Moreover, I feel that its revival would not deter crime at all; rather, I maintain like many others, THAT WHAT WE NEED HERE IS AN EFFICIENT AND CORRUPTION-FREE JUSTICE SYSTEM. 

But in the light of the brutal KFR episode involving the Hanjin executive, it’s easy to see that anti-death penalty advocates, and especially the minority in both chambers of Congress who are against it, would be hard-put to defending their stance.  


Seven months into his term,  President Duterte continues to  enjoy enormous popularity and support which crosses all strata of society---due mainly to the lackluster performance of his predecessor, former President  Noynoy Aquino, n combating crime. It's no secret that the drug trade proliferated under that unlamented regime. Mr. Duterte, however, should not dissipate his enormous political capital---he has to move fast against crime and IT OBVIOUSLY BEGINS WITH CLEANING UP THE PNP STABLES.   


PNP Chief Gen. Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa

PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, confronting the reality that his officers carried out that unspeakable crime vs. the Hanjin executive, right in Bato's fiefdom, was quoted saying, “I am very angry. Very offended…I am filled with shame over the fact that this killing happened inside Camp Crame…This is a shameful act by police officers.”  Gen. Bato, with his massive build and powerful bald head, looks like a stuntman for a film on medieval tortures. Thus, his statements on the execution of the SK executive acquire such power.   

What should console Gen. Bato is today’s gospel reading (Jan. 20) which spoke about twelve men from very humble beginnings who were handpicked by Jesus Christ to be his first Twelve Apostles---the pillars on which He built His Church. Save for tax collector Matthew (who was despised then, as his present-day colleagues are), the choices of Christ were mostly simple fishermen, but He sought to transform them into the earliest leaders of His Church---and all of them died a martyr's death.

Yet, despite Christ’s having chosen them carefully, one of them, Judas Iscariot, still betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver and later hang himself on a tree.


In other climes, the only option of someone like our PNP Chief would probably be to resign and hung his head in shame over this crime within the PNP premises. But our culture does not demand that, particularly since the kidnap was committed in late October when Gen. Bato de la Rosa was not even four months into the job. BUT THE TIME FOR HIM TO GET TO WORK IS NOW, NO MORE EXCUSES.  

What Gen. Bato should do NOW is to stop his lamentations and with the FULL SUPPORT OF President Duterte. HE SHOULD FEARLESSLY WEED OUT ALL THE UNDESIRABLES, THE BLACK SHEEP AMONG HIS FLOCK, and re-build the PNP into men of integrity and honesty.  He will need the grace of God in such a seemingly impossible job---HOW TO TURN CYNICAL, HARDENED THIEVES INTO SAINTS; but if he prays hard enough, and moves resolutely WITH DUTERTE'S FULL SUPPORT, I believe he will get the grace he needs. 

And maybe---just maybe---he can turn that old disgraced institution into quite another.  

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