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'Conspiracy behind Korean murder is part of destabilizing our government' —Sec. Mike Sueno

Metro Manila — A member of the Cabinet has reason to believe the kidnap-slay of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was politically motivated.

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael "Mike" Sueno revealed on Tuesday his suspicions of a destabilization plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Parang may angulo itong destabilization [There seems to be an angle of destabilization]," Sueno disclosed in an exclusive interview on CNN Philippines' The Source. "So there is somebody higher than them who we suspect is involved."

"Sa tingin po namin [We think] it's not only against the (Philippine National Police) or Bato (dela Rosa), but it is also against the President," he added.

Sueno said they are currently validating information surrounding one suspect, the possible "mastermind" of the plot.

"Itong [This] mastermind (is) influenced by a certain group against the present administration," he said.

Duterte has accused "yellows" of wanting to unseat him. The color is associated with the Liberal Party, the opposition party.

When asked if he thought that "yellows" were behind the killing of the Korean, Sueno answered: "Maybe what you are thinking is also my thinking. Just maybe. We cannot divulge it yet."

Criticism of police abuse in the war on drugs escalated with the killing of Joo, who was killed inside the police headquarters. The murder even prompted calls for the resignation of PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa and for the police to clean their ranks.

Sueno also shared that the President might meet Joo's widow within the next few days.

"I am even informed that the wife of the Korean victim will be brought to the President any time, because (he) wants to know what really happened," said Sueno.

Apologies, assurance to international community

The killing of Joo, which was also followed by reports of extortion from another Korean, have prompted reactions of fear from the international community living in the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella extended condolences and apologies to Joo's widow and the nation of South Korea on Tuesday.

"We apologize to the South Korean government and people for this irreparable loss. But we commit the full force of the law to ensure that justice is served and not delayed," Abella said. "To the Korean people, please accept our sincerest and deepest regrets."

Sueno also offered assurance to other foreigners living and working in the country.

"We would like to assure all the foreign nationals who are here that we are doing everything to protect them," Sueno said.

"Incidents like that involving tourists and foreign nationals make our President very, very angry," he added. "Ayaw ng Presidente for foreign nationals to be disturbed dito sa Pilipinas."

[The President does not want foreign nationals to be disturbed here in the Philippines.]


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