Remulla drug case: Perception an albatross

Just when Justice Secretary Boying Remulla is doing fine in his job. a thunderbolt of news on 14 October 2022 jolted him and the public of his son being arrested for illegal possession and importation of marijuana, a prohibited drug.

For a father who loves and nurtured a son since birth, such news is devastating. To those usual detractors who grab at the slightest opportunity to disparage a public official caught in a vine, it’s open season. With the general public, who has adopted the unbending rule that a public servant, about his work, must be beyond suspicion like Caesar’s wife, such fact raises concern and apprehension that the administration could be in peril with respect thereto.

Immediately upon being informed of his son’s unwanted situation, the Justice Secretary issued a handwritten statement from Switzerland where he was on an official trip:

“I am both a father and the Secretary of Justice, roles that I take very seriously. We all know about unconditional love, but at 38 years old, he will have to face his predicament as a fully emancipated child.”

“I have to abide by the oath of office I took when I assumed the position.”

“To make everything clear:

I will not intervene in nor influence my son’s predicament, and I have not done so in any way. A person should always face the consequences of his actions and I will let justice take its course. “

I thank the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) for doing their job without fear or favor. I have no conflict with them. This is a very difficult time for me and my family. But this is nothing compared to what so many Filipinos are going through. “

I will respect the justice system and I wish my son a path to redemption. “

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., rejecting the mounting clamor for the resignation of his Secretary of Justice, told reporters after attending the 8th Baltic Scientist Program convention in Pasay City on 14 October 2022:

“I think the calls for him to resign have no basis. You call for somebody to resign if he’s not doing his job or they have misbehaved in that job. He has not done … And quite the contrary he has taken a very proper position that he is recusing himself from any involvement in the case of his son. “

“I think that being the Secretary of the Department of Justice, he’s very aware that he must allow the process of the judiciary to work properly and that no one in the executive should interfere. “

The sins of the father, unlike his wealth, cannot be bequeathed to the son. The reverse is true, as in the present case, the wrongdoings of the son cannot and should not stain and affect the father’s good reputation. The latter cannot be accountable for the former‘s transgression of the law. He must face the grinding of the wheels of justice even as he avails himself of the remedies provided by law, as he is constitutionally presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A stricter rule, however, may be demanded by society when the transgressor is the son of a high government official. More so, when the latter holds a sensitive, powerful, and influential position whose paramount duty is to prosecute any transgressors of the laws of the land.

No matter how principled the public servant is, there will always be a perception, rightly or wrongly, by the governed, that the blood relation is stronger than the call of being fealty to the oath of office one had sworn to. Natural law dictates that a parent is always protective of the child. While an adult traverses his own life path independent of his parents, the culture in this country is the parents’ protection of a child commencing from birth till he breathes his last.

Of course, there may be, or there could be, an exception to the general rule.

As in the case of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who could renounce an heir and throw him to the dungeon if he transgresses the law which he was constitutionality mandated to enforce as President. When his son, Paolo Duterte, then Vice-Mayor of Davao City, now a member of Congress, was accused and bruited about involvement in illegal drugs, the maverick and politically willed Chief Executive, solemnly announced, and vowed, as he challenged the accusers to file criminal charges and show proof of his son’s alleged drug trafficking, and he would forthwith resign as President.

No criminal case was filed against the then-presidential son. Neither any proof was presented, the same being absolutely baseless and an attempt to besmirch the reputation of the Dutertes. Whatever negative perception that has arisen from such an attack against his family, it quickly vanished as soon as he hurled the challenge and commitment to resign from his high office. He would not want any suspicion of him protecting a son who might have violated the anti-illegal drug law hanging on the air unnecessarily and placing in peril his credibility and effectiveness in enforcing the law.

Undeniably and understandably, the unenviable position of Secretary Remulla, because of his son’s arrest and prosecution, will fan the fire of undeserved suspicion rather than extinguish it. Even now critics theorize that the success of the case against the younger Remulla will depend on the competent handling of the prosecutor/s, who are under the Department of Justice, whom the older Remulla heads. If there is an acquittal, ugly tongues will wag that the case was intentionally prosecuted inefficiently, either due to the instruction of their boss or even without his interference, that it was purposely mishandled as a favor to the father. If it’s a conviction, undoubtedly, the Justice Secretary will reap praises for his non-interference in the case, and eloquent proof that he didn’t lift a finger to help a beloved son, letting the law take its course.

The President’s assertive expression of confidence in Secretary Remulla should quiet the doubters even as it inspires the pained Cabinet member. In hindsight, an offer by the latter to resign his post, and the immediate rejection of such tender by the President would have effectively dispelled any doubt on the outcome of the judicial process.

In the meantime, while the case is pending, the concern, apprehension, nay suspicion, that influence will come into play in the prosecution of the drug case, no matter how unfair and even misplaced, will linger on.

On the shoulders of both Secretary Boying Remulla and the current dispensation, such an unwanted situation, unfortunately, and unavoidably, becomes an albatross.

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