Remulla’s son acquitted of illegal drug possession charge: Here's why | Inquirer News

Remulla’s son acquitted of illegal drug possession charge: Here’s why

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 02:28 PM January 06, 2023
How did it happen that the son of Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla was acquitted of possession of illegal drugs?

Lady Justice. Stock Image

(Updated 3: 48 p.m. to include reaction)

MANILA, Philippines — The son of Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla has been acquitted of possession of illegal drugs by a Las Piñas City regional trial court.


But how did that happen?

It appears that the arresting officers made various critical mistakes.


In a 34-page decision dated January 6, the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 197 cited lapses in the law enforcement procedures on the arrest of Remulla’s eldest son, Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, who was collared by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group after receiving a parcel containing nearly a kilo of high-grade marijuana or kush on October 11, 2022. The value of the kush was estimated to be worth P1.3 million.

Mainly due to the prosecution’s inability to show Juanito’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the court found it in his favor, and he was acquitted.

Not aware parcel contained drugs

According to Las Piñas City RTC Branch 197 Judge Ricardo Moldez II, the court did not find sufficient evidence that Remulla III “had freely, consciously and with full knowledge possessed the alleged seized illegal drugs.”

The testimonies of prosecution witnesses – PDEA intelligence officers Eduardo Bongao Jr. and Clint Mek-eng – were key in establishing that Juanito had no intention to possess the volume of illegal drugs found in the package.

When Juanito had been told that there was a parcel for him, Bongao recalled that Juanito replied with: “Wala akong inaasahang parcel, padala (I’m not expecting any parcel or shipment).”

Mek-eng, in his testimony, had similarly recounted Juanito saying he was not expecting any package.

“His reactions were consistent with a person who was not expecting a parcel or a package from a certain Benjamin Huffman or from any other person for that matter. They are likewise consistent with a person who is oblivious to the parcel’s content. Had it been otherwise, he could have acted differently by receiving the package outright,” explains the court in its ruling.


It further emphasized that in a controlled delivery, the simple act of designating or passively accepting a package containing illegal items is unacceptably inadequate to prove that the receiver is actively engaging in an unlawful activity or to establish criminal culpability.

According to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, controlled deliveries are an investigative technique for which an unlawful or suspect consignment of illicit drugs is allowed to proceed under the control and surveillance of law enforcement agents to secure evidence against those behind the illegal drug trade.

Doubts about integrity of seized drugs

The court likewise expressed “serious reservations on the integrity and evidentiary value of the dangerous drugs allegedly received.”

It noted that the parcel allegedly containing the high-grade marijuana had a handwritten marking that read “CAIDTF 9/28/22 Kush” with a signature.

But when asked about this marking, Customs examiner Gerardo Pascual could not provide an “unequivocal answer as to who had written it and why it was there.”

Pascual only insisted that “he was informed about the box” on October 4.

“[I]n the absence of an explanation,” the court says, “it can be reasonably inferred that as early as 28 September 2022, the Customs Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force already had possession of the parcel allegedly containing the marijuana or, at the very least, was aware of its existence.”

The court refused to speculate on why the package was only turned over to Pascual on October 4, but said it “has effectively put into question the identity, integrity and evidentiary value of the purportedly seized dangerous drugs.”

Irregularities in procedure

The court also said that possession of the parcel remained with Pascual, who testified that after opening the box and taking samples from its contents, it was placed in what he referred to as a “safety cage.”

“There was no evidence how the parcel or the two vacuum packed transparent plastic bags it contained were resealed on that date,” the court, however, notes.

Pascual did not place any markings on these items – either before or after he opened the parcel – up until he did so upon turning it over to the PDEA on October 10, the court pointed out.

Here, the court stressed that while the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022 is silent on the marking requirement, the law finds its significance in illegal drugs cases as it may remove any suspicion of alteration, substitution, or tampering.

“Because of these, this Court is unable [to] discount the possibility of evidence tampering on that occasion,” the decision reads.

The ruling adds: “There was no information on how the seized illegal drug was stored after it was examined by the forensic chemist, who handled the specimen for examination, and where the same was kept until it was retrieved and presented in court. Once again, the chain of custody has been compromised.”

In the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the so-called chain of custody requires the arresting team to have initial custody and control of the drugs to immediately undertake a physical inventory of the confiscated drugs.

Photographs of the illicit item should also be done in the presence of the accused, the person/s from whom such item was seized, or their representative or counsel.

The law also requires a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and any elected public official to sign the copies of the inventory.

“Accused’s presumption of innocence cannot be defeated by the presumption of regularity in favor of the PDEA operatives,” the court says.

It further stressed that “the prosecution must establish that the drugs presented in court as evidence are the exact same drugs seized from the accused and examined by the crime laboratory.”

“This is not merely a matter of procedural formalities, but is a matter rooted in the very core of the crime’s commission. When a crime cannot be assured that the drugs presented as evidence are exactly what the prosecution purports them to be, a conviction will not be forthcoming,” the court also says.

Despite the swift acquittal of Juanito for illegal drug possession, he is still facing separate complaints for the importation of illegal drugs and violation of customs law, which are pending before the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office.

‘Double standard: Justice is not blind’

Quick to point out that Justice is Not Blind, some groups criticized the decision as a double standard.

On Friday, progressive group Bayan Muna voiced its disgust with the speed with which the son of the Justice Secretary was acquitted.

The group argued that all Filipinos, including political prisoners and the neglected, should be entitled to such special treatment, not only those in positions of power, slamming the double standard permeating modern society.

It also highlighted that justice is not blind and that influential people can use the system to advance their interests.


Remulla III acquitted of illegal drug possession charge

Bayan Muna slams fast acquittal of DOJ chief Remulla’s son: ‘Sanaol’

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