‘Justice for the rich’: Social media uproar over justice chief’s son’s speedy trial, acquittal in drug case

After being arrested in October for the possession of PHP1.3 million (US$22,058) worth of marijuana, Juanito Jose Remulla III, son of Department of Justice Secretary Boying Remulla, has been acquitted by a Las Piñas court.

The circumstances of Remulla’s case and acquittal have led to social media uproar.

Netizens pointed out the stark difference between authorities’ handling of Remulla’s case, which saw a speedy three-month resolution, over the thousands of drug suspects killed in the government’s drug war, a continuation of Rodrigo Duterte’s policy. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said that over 6,200 suspects were killed in the war on drugs under the Duterte administration.

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In October, PDEA released mugshots of Remulla with his face blurred to protect his privacy — a move that has not been afforded to other past drug suspects.

“Juanito Jose Remulla III’s case is just one of many. And while this should not come as a surprise, Filipinos should be upset because it manifests how the justice system in the nation is in a precarious position and favors the wealthy and powerful,” a Twitter user said.

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“Hey, Juanito Jose Remulla III has already been acquitted. Such a great justice system we have in the Philippines. A huge hope for poor victims. KUDOS!” one sarcastically wrote.

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Activist Renato Reyes said that the rights Remulla received as a suspect should be extended to everyone.

“The rights accorded to Juanito Jose Remulla III are very basic and should have been accorded to everyone. He got a speedy trial, and his case resolved within 75 days. Many others, especially the poor, are not so fortunate. And that there is what is wrong with our justice system,” he wrote on Twitter.

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Netizens also questioned parts of Remulla’s defense that led to his acquittal, mainly the claim that the package drug authorities intercepted was addressed to a “Juanito Remulla,” not a Juanito Jose Remulla III. PDEA also supposedly did not follow the chain of custody requirements as no witnesses were called for an inventory of illegal drugs.

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Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III was caught by authorities in October after two packets of suspected imported kush worth PHP1.3 million were seized from him.

The hashtag #BoyingRemullaResign trended on social media shortly after the justice secretary posted a handwritten note following his son’s arrest, promising he would not intervene in the authorities’ investigation. In the note, he wrote that his 38-year-old son would have to “face his predicament as a fully emancipated child” and wished him “a path of redemption.”

His letter did not quell the sentiments of some Filipinos who are calling for Remulla to resign as a matter of delicadeza (courtesy) over his son’s arrest.

Remulla continues to face separate complaints for illegal drug importation and the violation of customs law before the Pasay City prosecutor’s office.