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NBI talks to witnesses in Jonson-Ongpin case

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
NBI talks to witnesses in Jonson-Ongpin case
Facade of the National Bureau of Investigation along Taft Avenue, Manila.
Philstar.com / Google Street View, File

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is coordinating with witnesses who were last seen with visual artist Bree Jonson and Julian Ongpin prior to her death at a resort in La Union last month, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

“The NBI has taken the testimonies of the persons who were with the couple on the night before the fateful incident,” Guevarra said.

The sworn statements of the witnesses will serve as evidence, Guevarra said.

The NBI has performed a second autopsy on the 30-year-old Jonson.

“The NBI is doing forensic and pathological examinations to ensure that all bases are covered before releasing its findings,” Guevarra said. “Several tests will still be conducted to find out Jonson’s cause of death.”

Drug case

According to Guevarra, the Department of Justice (DOJ) National Prosecution Service will soon conclude its preliminary investigation on the drug complaint filed against Ongpin.

Ongpin, 29, is the son of billionaire and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin.

Police allegedly found more than 12 grams of cocaine in the resort room where Ongpin and Jonson stayed.

Both Ongpin and Jonson tested positive for cocaine use.

Ongpin was initially arrested and detained on drug charges. The Ilocos prosecutor’s office ordered his release pending preliminary investigation of the case.

Guevarra said Ongpin’s camp filed a counter-affidavit to answer the drug charges.

The DOJ will resume the preliminary hearing on Oct. 8.

“The resolution of the case will be issued after the probe,” Guevarra said.

Ongpin attended the preliminary hearing on the case last Friday.

Jonson was found dead in a resort room in San Juan, La Union on Sept. 18.

Based on an autopsy conducted on Jonson by the La Union police, she died of asphyxia or loss of oxygen. She bore ligature marks on her neck.

Jonson’s relatives believe that the cause of her death was not drug overdose.

She was laid to rest in her hometown in Davao on Sept. 30.

Autopsy protocol

The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday denied accusations that it was intentionally delaying the turnover of the internal organs of Jonson to the NBI, which conducted another autopsy on the visual artist.

PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the statement released by Jonson’s camp that some of her organs were missing was a result of a “misunderstanding and misinterpretation” of the autopsy’s procedure.

On Friday, officials of the PNP Crime Laboratory and the NBI held a meeting with the mother of Jonson.

“During the meeting, it was clearly explained that although some of the internal organs were removed, they were immediately returned to the abdominal cavity after tissue samples were taken as part of the protocol in the conduct of autopsy,” Eleazar said.

“The NBI medico-legal admitted that they have seen the organs, except that they could not decipher or distinguish clearly where the heart tissues are along with the stomach and trachea as they were cut into sections to fit the abdominal cavity,” he added.

Eleazar said tissue samples and a complete list of the artist’s internal organs have been turned over to the NBI in the presence of Jonson’s lawyers.

“All of these were properly documented as part of the investigation protocol,” he said.

“We are carefully scrutinizing every piece of evidence because we do not want a sloppy investigation. I appeal for everyone to avoid making conclusions until the PNP and NBI have finished the probe on Jonson’s death,” Eleazar added. – Neil Jayson Servallos

BREE JONSON

JULIAN ONGPIN

NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

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