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Judge inhibits from Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo kidnap-slay cases

By NICOLE-ANNE C. LAGRIMAS, GMA News

The regional trial court (RTC) judge hearing the abduction, murder, and carnapping cases involving slain Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo has voluntarily recused himself from further hearing the criminal suits.

In an order promulgated on March 15, Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr. of the Angeles City RTC Branch 58 clarified that he was inhibiting himself from the cases "voluntarily" and not due to accused Police Superintendent Rafael Dumlao III's inhibition plea, which he turned down. 

"While the Court denied accused Dumlao's Motion for Inhibition, in order to remove any doubt in any and all official acts that will be rendered by the Court, the undersigned hereby voluntarily inhibits himself from sitting in and further hearing these cases," he said.

Dumlao had wanted Pangilinan to recuse himself from the cases after the magistrate "prejudged" the appeal of the cops' lawyers contesting his declaration of one of their colleagues, Senior Police Officer 4 Roy Leviste Villegas, as a state witness.

Villegas had been turned into a state witness on January 3, when the court ruled his testimony was "absolutely necessary" in proving conspiracy among the police officers in the kidnapping and eventual killing of the Korean businessman.

Denying the motion for inhibition, Pangilinan said "bare allegations and mere suspicions of partiality are not enough in the absence of evidence to overcome the presumption that a member of the Court will undertake his noble role to dispense justice according to law and evidence and without fear or favor."

Jee was abducted on October 18, 2016 by armed men, who also took jewelry and passports. The businessman was reported to have been strangled to death, cremated, and his remains flushed down the toilet.

Judge Pangilinan also denied the motions for reconsideration filed by SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabela and Dumlao contesting the discharge of Villegas as state witness for failing to raise substantial arguments that have not been previously addressed in earlier pleadings.

"As comprehensively elucidated in the questioned Joint Order, while accused Villegas directly participated in some stages of the execution, he had no direct participation in the actual killing of Ick Joo Jee," he said.

"His testimony is therefore absolutely necessary to prove the charge of conspiracy," he maintained.

The judge also denied the motions to expunge the appeals filed by Villegas himself.

Following Pangilingan's inhibition, the cases will be re-raffled to another judge. — MDM, GMA News