Duterte orders probe on Bree Jonson’s case

Helen Flores, Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
Duterte orders probe on Bree Jonsonâs case
A bowl of ramen is placed with flowers during the wake of visual artist Bree Jonson at the St. Peter Memorial Chapels in Quezon City (September 25, 2021).
Ghio Ong, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte ordered an investigation into the death of visual artist Bree Jonson at a resort in San Juan, La Union on Sept. 18, Malacañang said yesterday.

“He has instructed the justice department to accord the victim justice,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing. “But we need to let the probe take its course to know what really happened.”

The lawyer for Jonson’s family, Ma. Moreni Salandanan, decried the “double standard” in the handling of the drug complaint filed against Julian Ongpin following his release despite the possession of 12.6 grams of cocaine.

Ongpin was the last person seen with Jonson before she was found unconscious in the room they occupied.

Salandanan said Ongpin should not have been released from police custody, considering the amount of drugs seized from him.

Both Ongpin and Jonson tested positive for drug use.

“Based on my experience, no person caught in possession of large amount of drugs has been released for further investigation. So far, with Julian Ongpin, he must be the richest person I have been up against, but for my other clients who are not as rich as him, it’s more difficult in trying to release them from detention,” Salandanan said in an interview on Teleradyo.

“So, in a sense, there’s double standard here,” she added.

Salandanan said it was unusual for drug suspects to be released when arrested for possession of more than 12 grams of cocaine.

“It’s a capital offense, which is non-bailable,” the lawyer said, as she asked how drug possession and use were not considered strong evidence by the Ilocos prosecutor’s office before approving Ongpin’s release.

The family of Jonson has asked the police to file a motion before the prosecutor’s office of San Fernando, La Union to reconsider Ongpin’s release.

Ongpin’s father, billionaire and former trade secretary Roberto Ongpin, was criticized by Duterte in 2016 for supposedly benefiting from former presidents as he promised to “destroy” the country’s oligarchs.

‘No drug overdose’

The mother of Jonson, Sally, cried foul over allegations that the cause of her death was drug overdose.

“She tested positive for drugs but it does not mean that she overdosed. It’s unfair, it’s not right,” Sally said during Bree’s wake in Quezon City last Saturday.

She maintained that Bree could not afford to buy cocaine.

“Who has the access to cocaine? She did not have the money to buy such amount of cocaine,” Sally said.

Based on the autopsy conducted by the Ilocos police, Jonson died of asphyxia or loss of oxygen. Her neck bore ligature marks.

On Sunday, Jonson’s remains were brought to Davao City where she would be laid to rest today.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sees no reason to tap the National Bureau of Investigation in tracking down Julian Ongpin after the Philippine National Police admitted that it could not locate his whereabouts.

“Not at this time,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, adding that the court has not issued a warrant for the arrest of Ongpin.

Earlier, the Ilocos Police Regional Office admitted that it is clueless on Ongpin’s whereabouts.

“We may know his whereabouts when the subpoena for the preliminary investigation is served on him,” Guevarra said.

The DOJ has taken over the preliminary hearing on the drug complaint filed against Ongpin. – Ghio Ong, Robertzon Ramirez

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