Just a week before his son was arrested in a drug bust in Las Piñas City, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the Marcos administration had adopted a different approach in dealing with the illegal drugs problem.
Steering away from the Duterte administration’s controversial “Oplan Tokhang,” Remulla said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has refocused the anti-illegal drug campaign to “tackling the source of the problem.”
“He has stated that criminal masterminds must be apprehended and punished, not small-scale users on the street,” the Justice secretary said before the 51st regular session of the UNHRC-Enhanced Interactive Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 5.
“He has emphasized the need for rehabilitation, prevention, education and assistance to victims and their families,” Remulla added.
Six days later, counter-narcotics agents arrested his eldest son, Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, for drug possession. But the arrest was made public only two days later.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Derrick Carreon said a package from San Diego, California containing 893.9 grams of high-grade marijuana with an estimated street value of P1.3 million was addressed to the younger Remulla.
The younger Remulla, 38, has been detained in a PDEA facility. He is facing life imprisonment, the penalty for the importation of illegal drugs.
The Justice secretary was still in Geneva when his son was arrested on Oct. 11. Soon after news broke about his son’s arrest on October 13, Remulla posted a handwritten statement on social media, saying he would not use his position to intervene on his son’s behalf. But the netizens were unbelieving, flooding social media platforms with calls for the older Remulla’s resignation. Marcos turned down the resignation calls, saying it had no basis.
Netizens also observed that the younger Remulla was apparently given special treatment, questioning PDEA’s release of his mug shot photos which had his face blurred, a practice not applied to many other arrested crime suspects.
Some commented that Remulla III is lucky because he’s not dead, unlike several victims of Oplan Tokhang in the previous Duterte administration who were summarily killed on the pretext that they had fought back.
The Makabayan bloc of legislators said there was double standard in the law enforcers’ handling of the Remulla case, citing the two-day delay in the public announcement of the arrest and the release of the blurred mugshots.
After reviewing the Justice secretary’s Oct. 5 speech before the UNHRC, it appears that his son is the first high-profile suspect benefiting from the change in policy in tackling the drug menace.
In the speech, Secretary Remulla said Marcos has reminded the Philippine National Police that “the use of force must always be reasonable, accountable, justifiable, and only utilized when necessary.”
“An internal disciplinary program has been enacted to right the wrongs of erring law enforcement officials that abuse their power and the public trust,” the elder Remulla said.
Of course, the PDEA agents knew they were arresting the son of the Justice secretary. They better be careful, mindful of the proper procedures in handling him.
Remulla also told the UNHRC that the Marcos administration has taken targeted and bold measures “to change the culture of our judicial and law enforcement system, which have produced certain flaws and delays in the carriage of justice.”
Gabriella Party List Rep. Arlene Brosas said the arrest of the younger Remulla shows that rich people can face justice and would be considered innocent until proven otherwise — unlike many of the more than 300,000 poor victims of the drug war who were killed on the spot during operations.
“If you are rich and you are the son of a government official, you would be given the chance for due process. But if you are poor, you would be arrested or shot dead,” she added.
The shift in the treatment of drug suspects is obvious. Hopefully, all other drug suspects will be treated in the same way the law enforcers handled the case of the Justice secretary’s son, regardless of their economic status or high connections.