PDEA defends move to blur mug shots of Remulla son
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) insisted that it did not give any special treatment to the recently arrested son of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, after the agency drew criticism for releasing mug shots of the younger Remulla with his face already blurred.
According to PDEA, it has been its policy for the last several months to cover the faces of suspects in official photos shared with the media.
“We adopted a set of protocols in March this year, measures that would better align our antidrug operations with the spirit of Republic Act No. 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012,” PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva said in a statement on Wednesday.
The agency continued to explain the mug shots eight days after the arrest of Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, 38, by a joint team operatives of PDEA and Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group at his Las Piñas City address on Oct. 11.
Juanito was allegedly found to be the recipient of a parcel sent from the United States and containing about a kilogram of “kush,” or high-grade marijuana, with an estimated street value of P1.25 million.
Villanueva said the new protocols covered the publication—online or otherwise—of pictures or images of arrested suspects, particularly mug shots.
Obscured or blurred
Under the seven-month-old policy, pictures provided to the media that contain images of the suspect must have the individual’s face obscured or blurred, similar to how PDEA handles pictures to protect the identities of its agents.
“We understand that the public has a right to have access to information on matters related to public order and safety,” Villanueva said.
“But we also put an equal importance on human rights, on due process, and we hope the public understands this difficult but necessary balancing act,” he added.
Juanito’s mug shots and photos were shared by PDEA with the media only three days after his arrest, on Oct. 14.
His face was blurred in the images, eliciting accusations of a double standard considering other drug offenders didn’t enjoy such a privilege.
PDEA has ceased publishing photos of arrested drug personalities on its official Facebook page “PDEA Top Stories.”
The last time it posted photos on the page was on Aug. 15 when it shared pictures of the arrest of two persons, including a police officer, by PDEA-National Capital Region (NCR) during a buy-bust operation in Caloocan City on Aug. 4.
No parading suspects
Like Juanito, the faces of the two suspects were blurred in the photos.
But on Aug. 12, PDEA published a photo set of its successive buy-bust operations earlier that day in Pangasinan and La Union. That time, PDEA did not blur the photos of the Chinese national and four Filipinos who were arrested. But they were wearing face masks.
The other new protocols, according to PDEA, include a ban on the parading of arrested drug suspects during press conferences following a successful operation.
This practice was common to all law enforcement units in the past and was banned by PDEA upon determining that it violates the constitutional rights of the accused, particularly presumption of innocence, the agency said.
Juanito is detained at PDEA-NCR in the agency’s headquarters in Quezon City, facing illegal drug possession charges filed in court by the Las Piñas prosecutor’s office, with no bail recommended.
A preliminary investigation is being conducted by Pasay prosecutors for the other charges of drug importation and violation of customs law.
Remulla has assured PDEA and the public that he would not interfere in his son’s cases.
READ: No bail for Remulla son
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