PDEA on court loss: Will have ‘due diligence’ next drug bust | Inquirer News

PDEA on court loss: Will have ‘due diligence’ next drug bust

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:32 AM January 07, 2023

Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, in dark glasses and wearing a cap (center), the eldest son of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, waits for operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group complete their paperwork following his Oct. 11, 2022, arrest on drug possession charges after he received a parcel containing “kush,” or high grade marijuana. He was acquitted and ordered released by the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court on Friday. —PDEA PHOTO

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) suffered a swift blow against what it had called an airtight case from an operation that was “followed to the letter” after the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court acquitted Juanito Jose Remulla III, the eldest son of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, in a drug possession case on Friday.

“With utmost respect to the court’s decision, PDEA will carefully study the reasons behind the exoneration, and exercise due diligence in the conduct of similar operations in the future,” the drug agency said in a statement.


“The court has seen both sides of the case and is in the best position to rule over the merits,” it said.

PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon said after Remulla’s arrest on Oct. 11, 2022, the antidrug agency had an airtight case against the suspect and that the “controlled delivery” operation that allowed a package of high-grade marijuana, or “kush,” to be brought right at Remulla’s doorstep had been strictly followed.


Remulla’s arrest had put PDEA in hot water after it was alleged that he was given special treatment as the son of the justice chief.

The drug agency delayed the announcement of the arrest without explanation, uncharacteristic for a high-profile drug bust, and blurred his face in a mug shot that was distributed to media organizations.

Eight days after the arrest, then PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva was removed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. from his post and replaced him with retired Police Maj. Gen. Moro Virgilio Lazo, a former commander of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.

No explanation was given for sudden replacement of Villanueva, a career executive who rose from the ranks of PDEA and was appointed its director general in 2020 by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

In all, Remulla spent 87 days in detention, including 63 days at Las Pinas City Jail awaiting the court’s decision after his Nov. 4, 2022, arraignment.

How about Leila?

A lawyer for Remulla, Pearlito Campanilla, explained that the period was well within the 75 days prescribed by the Supreme Court to finish trials for nonbailable crimes.

Looking at the swift resolution of Remulla’s drug case, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay lamented the nearly six years that former Sen. Leila de Lima had been undergoing trial also for illegal drugs in what she and her supporters called trumped-up charges.


“It is grossly unfortunate that the exoneration of a Remulla scion was swift but the liberation of former Sen. Leila de Lima is stranded in the dark tunnel of injustice,” he said in a statement.

Lagman, president of the Liberal Party to which the ex-senator belonged, and many other opposition personalities, human rights groups and foreign lawmakers have been urging the justice department to withdraw the two remaining cases against De Lima that were filed during the Duterte administration.

Last year, De Lima’s life was placed in jeopardy in detention when she was briefly taken hostage inside her Camp Crame cell where she has been held since February 2017.

Activist groups on Friday said the “basic rights” accorded to the justice secretary’s son should have been applied to all other accused, especially to those who have been enduring long years in jail for similar drug charges.

Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said in a statement that while they were not in the position to comment on whether Remulla’s son was guilty or innocent, there were many others still awaiting justice.

“We can, however, point out that he was accorded speedy trial and an opportunity to plead his innocence, unlike the many EJK (extrajudicial killing) victims in the sham drug war and unlike those who continue to languish in jail on false charges, including hundreds of political prisoners,” he added.

Reyes was referring to the brutal drug war launched by Duterte that killed thousands of suspected drug offenders.


The Marcos administration said it would continue Duterte’s antidrug campaign despite opposition from local and international groups that had urged him to focus on rehabilitation instead.

Some critics of PDEA early on believed that it had deliberately compromised the antidrug operation against Remulla.

Both the justice and interior departments concede that most of the drug charges were being dismissed by the courts due to the failure by their operatives to follow the rule on the chain of custody of evidence in cases where they have no witnesses.

The Las Piñas court said that PDEA did not not follow chain of custody requirements, one of the measures that the court had cited for preventing the planting of evidence against any suspect in a drug case.

The court said that while it acknowledges the “presumption of regularity” in the actions of the antidrug agency, that should not override a suspect’s rights to presumption of


Carreon, the PDEA spokesperson, had given assurance to the public of the regularity of the antidrug operation conducted by the different law enforcement agencies involved.



Remulla III acquitted of illegal drug possession charge

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