Tale of two drug cases           

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The justice system in the country has been weaponized and is skewed in favor of those in power.  Two sets of justice exist in this country – one for the holders of power and another for the marginalized and the perceived enemies of the administration.

Nothing truly demonstrates how unjust the justice system in the country is than the current tale of two drug cases, that of former Sen. Leila de Lima and Juanito Jose Remulla III, son of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

Last week, the 38-year-old son of the Justice Secretary was arrested by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and members of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group in Las Piñas City. He was caught red-handed in possession of P1.3-million worth of kush, a high-grade marijuana, weighing close to 900 grams.

Juanito Jose Remulla III is charged of violating Section 11 (possession of more than 500 grams of marijuana) of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.  The penalty is life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.

Immediately after the news broke-out, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla issued a written statement vowing not to intervene in his son’s case. “I see this as a test to our family, to myself, and in many ways to our country on how we handle a sensitive matter like this,” he declared. “I’m the head of the justice department and I will let justice take its course.”

Under a watchful public, Secretary Remulla is walking on a tight rope. While his statement is intended to give the impression that under his care, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will not be used for personal gain, it is clear the son is enjoying the perks of the connection as shown by the way the case was handled.

In normal instances, especially under Du30’s brutal and bloody war against illegal drugs, Juanito Jose Remulla III would now be dead if he is from the slums with the usual “nanlaban” alibi. Then Congressman Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla was an enthusiastic supporter of Du30’s macabre project, advocating death penalty for those who engage in the illegal drug trade. Had Cong. Remulla’s advocacy bore fruit, his son could have been an early beneficiary.

With a Justice Secretary for a father, Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla is one lucky kid. Not only he escaped ruthless death, but his rights as an accused were also respected as a “matter of courtesy” and “good faith.” His face was blurred in the initial mugshots released to the public to protect his privacy. Public outcry on the VIP treatment forced PDEA to release Juanito Jose III’s unedited mugshots.

It is also amazing how authorities delayed the announcement of the arrest of the Justice Secretary’s son. It took PDEA two full days before announcing the arrest claiming they have to verify the information before going public. This is highly unusual since it is a deviation from the usual practice of quick public announcement of high-profile drug bust with the suspect/s paraded immediately before the media by authorities as trophy.

Public official, both local and national swiftly expressed their sympathy and support to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla. Cavite Mayor’s League and its District Representatives expressed their support to the beleaguered Justice Secretary as well as Senators Robin Padilla, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Imee Marcos, and Bong Revilla. BBM also affirmed his confidence to his DoJ secretary.

Contrast the case of Juanito Jose Remulla III with that of former senator Leila de Lima who is also accused of being involved in illegal drug trade. She is jailed on the basis of statements from convicted drug lords despite lack of material evidence. The law requires that for a drug case to proceed there must material evidence – actual money and the drug, to corroborate the accusation. The DoJ failed so far to produce the material evidence against the former senator. Both the money and the drug on the other hand were found in the possession of Juanito Jose Remulla III.

Key witnesses against Leila de Lima have also recanted their statements against her. They are confessed drug dealer Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and convicts Hans Anton Tan, Jerry Valeroso and Peter Co. Former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos also recanted his allegations against former Senator Leila de Lima claiming in his affidavit that he was merely coerced by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to implicate De Lima. The DoJ has been blocking the presentation of the recanted testimony of Ragos in court to ensure the continued detention of De Lima.

Despite the weak case against former senator Leila de Lima, she is in jail for five years, the longest political prisoner under Du30’s rule. With a smack of misogyny, Du30’s allies feasted on a fake sex video of the former senator in the halls of Congress. Trolls and Du30 fanatics have subjected former senator Leila de Lima to unspeakable abuse and vilification online. So far, they have not proven the case against her and the evidence is not only weak but non-existent.  Yet she is still in jail.

The contrasting way the cases of Juanito Jose Remulla III and former senator Leila de Lima are dealt with is testament to everything that is wrong with the justice system of the country. Juanito Jose Remulla III’s case was handled with care while that of the former senator was roughly and brashly treated with proof not even required. The two cases demonstrate how unjust the justice system in the country is.