The Ilocos Police Regional Office (PRO-1) admitted Friday, Sept. 24, that they were now clueless as to the whereabouts of Julian Ongpin, a person of interest in the death of artist Bree Jonson in La Union.
Police Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta, PRO-1 regional director, said Ongpin was last seen by the police last Tuesday, Sept. 21, when he voluntarily submitted himself to the La Union Provincial Police Office for an investigation.
He said Ongpin was “cooperative” when Crime Laboratory (CL) personnel checked on the wound markings found on his arms and back. But since then, the police have not made any contact with the son of billionaire businessman and former Trade and Industry minister Roberto Ongpin.
“Sa ngayon, hindi ko alam kung nasaan siya (Right now, I don’t know where he is). Hindi ko alam kung nasa bahay nila, sa Manila, o sa Baguio (I don’t know if he’s in their house, in Manila, or in Baguio) but we are trying to contact him,” Peralta said in a radio interview over dzBB.
Ongpin was initially arrested by the police for possession and use of illegal drugs last September 18, the same day that Jonson was found dead inside their hotel room at the Flotsam and Jetsam beach resort in San Juan, La Union.
The Ilocos regional police and the La Union provincial police have conducted a re-enactment of the incident where Jonson’s body was allegedly found by Ongpin, according to Peralta.
He said that Jonson was found “motionless” by Ongpin around 4:50 a.m. or 4:55 a.m. last Saturday, Sept. 18, inside their hotel room at the Flotsam Jetsam beach resort in San Juan, La Union.
Ongpin called a hotel safety officer and police for help as he claimed Jonson committed suicide. Based on Ongpin’s narration to investigators, he said he forcibly entered the comfort room of the hotel room where Jonson allegedly tried to hang herself using a chain.
Peralta said this matched Ongpin’s wounds on her arms and at the right portion of his back.
“‘Yong mga sinasabi natin na scratch marks caused by finger nails o kuko ng tao sa forearm niya na nakikita sa mugshot ay hindi finger nail scratches kundi doon sa mga pako ng broken door, sinira niya. Hindi niya mabuksan ang CR ng pinto sa hotel na made of wooden jalousie kaya may mga pako iyan (The alleged fingernail scratch marks on his forearm that were seen at the mugshot are not really fingernail scratch marks but were caused by the nails from the broken door which he destroyed. He could not open the comfort room of the hotel which was made of wooden jalousie so there’s really nails),” Peralta said.
According to police, Ongpin entered through a small opening at the bottom part of the door of the comfort room where he allegedly saw Jonson. It turned out he moved the body of Jonson to her bed and that was when he called the hotel management and police for help.
“Sinukat ng ating mga personnel ‘yong distansya, anong klase ng sugat, nai-match sa mga pako doon sa cr. Sakto eh (Our personnel measured the distance [of the wounds from each other], what type of wounds he had, and they cross-matched it to the nails found in the comfort room. It matched),” Peralta added.
A certain Joselito Niebres, the on-duty hotel safety control officer, arrived at the hotel room and found an unconscious Jonson on her bed. He checked the 30-year-old painter’s body and found out she had no pulse.
Around five to 10 minutes later since Ongpin called for help, police arrived and secured the hotel room. They also checked Jonson’s pulse.
As part of protocols, authorities called the municipal disaster risk reduction and management office (MDRRMO) of San Juan. Jonson’s pulse was checked for a third time but nothing was detected so they decided to bring her to the hospital.
Beginning at 5:06 a.m. onwards, Jonson was brought to at least two hospitals, the first one was a “small hospital or clinic” where she was checked. But the authorities were advised to bring Jonson to a bigger facility so she was finally brought to the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC) where she was declared dead on arrival.
Back at the hotel room, police placed the hotel room off-limits to the public. Personnel of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) were called to process the hotel room. The SOCO personnel arrived “before 7 a.m.” and found 12.6 grams of cocaine on the bed of Ongpin.
Ongpin was then subjected to a drug test where he yielded positive results for cocaine use. From there, Ongpin was arrested for possession and use of illegal drugs.
But La Union provincial deputy prosecutor Braulio Tade ordered the release of Ongpin last Monday, Sept. 20, even if Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act states that the possession of more than 10 grams of illegal drugs is a non-bailable offense.
Peralta said he respects Tade’s orders but added: “He may be wrong.”
Tade, in his resolution, said the respondent’s arrest “does not fall under any of the instances where warrantless arrest is allowed.”
There are three instances where a warrantless arrest is valid: during an ‘inflagrante delicto’ arrest or when the suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime; during a hot pursuit; and during the re-capture of an escaped prisoner.
Tade ordered Ongpin to submit a counter-affidavit in 10 days while the case was deemed filed for preliminary investigation.
Despite this, PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar vowed that the police will be impartial in the conduct of their investigation. He said they were considering two angles behind Jonson’s death: suicide and homicide.
“Wala pa naman po tayong kongklusyon at hindi natin isinasantabi ang foul play. Makakaasa po kayo na tayo ay magiging transparent sa kasong ito (We have yet to issue a conclusion and we do not rule out the possibility of a foul play. Rest assured that we will be transparent in this case),” he said in a Laging Handa press briefing
Meanwhile, the family of Jonson has sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for an independent probe.
The NBI has conducted a separate autopsy on the body of Jonson.