PDEA: Blurring of drug suspect’s image part of new protocol

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday reiterated its policy on the blurring of images of arrested drug suspects.

PDEA Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva made remarks amidst questions arising from the published blurred pictures of the eldest son of Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying’’ Remulla.

Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III was arrested by the PDEA and members of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group in a controlled delivery operation in Las Piñas City on 11 October.

“We adopted a set of protocols in March this year, measures that would better align our anti-drug operations with the spirit of Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012,’’ Villanueva said in a statement.

He said these measures include a prohibition on the parading of arrested drug suspects during press conferences with the media after a successful anti-drug operation.

This practice, he said, was common to all law enforcement units in the past and was banned by PDEA after determining that the practice violated the constitutional rights of the accused, particularly the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

He added that another discontinued practice is the publication, online or otherwise, of the pictures or images of arrested suspects, particularly mugshots of the individual.

He maintained that the pictures provided to the media which contain images of the suspect must have the individual’s face obscured or blurred, similar to what is practiced for pictures containing the faces of law enforcement agents.

“We understand that the public has a right to have access to information on matters related to public order and safety. Our Public Information Office makes sure that our media partners have access to timely information on everything related to drug law enforcement. But we also put equal importance on human rights, on due process, and we hope the public understands this difficult but necessary balancing act,” he added.

Juanito is facing criminal charges after he was arrested for supposedly claiming P1.3 million worth of “kush,” or high-grade marijuana, in a controlled delivery operation in Las Piñas City last week.

He was charged before the Las Piñas City Prosecutor’s Office which recommended no bail for his temporary liberty.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla stood firm that all matters arising from the indictment of his son on drug charges will go through normal channels and will not receive preferential treatment from his office

Remulla told the media on Tuesday that he has yet to talk to his 38-year-old son, Juanito Jose Diaz III, who was arrested in a controlled delivery operation in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City on 11 October.

The younger Remulla was the recipient of a parcel from a certain Benjamin Huffman of the United States, allegedly containing an estimated P1.3 million worth of kush or high-grade marijuana that weighed 893.91 grams.

The DoJ chief was on official business in Geneva, Switzerland when the arrest happened.

“I haven’t talked to him actually since the beginning. I’ve stayed away from the case. I have not talked to anybody. I have not asked anybody any favor. I just talked to a cousin of mine who is a lawyer who has started representing him already. That’s everything that I have to do with the case. I have nothing to do with the case,” he said.

Remulla said he prefers to have all resolutions about his son’s case be handled by the courts, instead of by the DoJ, to avoid perceptions of meddling.

“That’s the question that was asked of me by the lawyers who I talked to. Sabi ko (I told them) if there is a resolution, don’t let it reach the DoJ. Let it be discussed in court, whatever the case may be,” he said.

“If its an adverse case against my son, it will not be appealing here (DoJ). it will go straight to the courts for trial,” he said.

Remulla said his family has closed ranks to support each other following the incident.

“We are holding up very well. My wife, my mother, my children, my brothers and sisters are all supportive and I’d like to thank those people who have sent me statement of support — text, and all messaging platforms. I appreciate the statement of support,” he added.

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