"I don't subscribe to (idea) that I will weaponize" DOJ post - Remulla
MANILA — Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla on Tuesday said he is only "unmasking" people he had accused of having links with the communist movement, as he notes that red-tagging is a "political term".
He issued the statement when asked to comment on fears raised by some groups that he would use his incoming position at the Department of Justice against those he had accused during the campaign period for Halalan 2022.
"I'm a professional. I'm a lawyer. I know the Bill of Rights," Remulla told ANC's Dateline Philippines.
"Ang red-tagging is a political term. I'm just unmasking them. Sinasabi ko lang ang totoo (I'm just telling the truth)," he added.
"I do not subscribe to your thought that I will weaponize."
Remulla has accepted the offer of presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to be the next DOJ Secretary.
Human rights group Karapatan said in a statement that the country "can only expect more injustice and even more impunity under the presumptive Marcos-Duterte administration with Remulla at the helm of the DOJ."
"Given Remulla’s atrocious track record of shameless apologia for red-tagging, human rights violations, and attacks on press freedom, we express grave concern over his impending appointment as Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary, especially when his appointment also means that he will get to sit as a member the Anti-Terrorism Council," the group said.
The Kabataan party-list also said there is "no justice in sight under" Remulla, whom they accused of killing academic freedom and being a red-tagger.
The lawmaker was criticized during the campaign season for Halalan 2022 for red-tagging supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo when they mounted a rally for her presidential bid in Cavite.
Asked how his incoming stint at the DOJ be different from how he campaigned, Remulla said, "Unang una, kailangan malaman ng taumbayan yung varying degrees of criminal responsibility. Ang terrorism kasi, ang rebellion, 'yan po ay krimen. At there are varying degrees of criminal responsibility. Merong principal, may accomplice, may accessory."
(First of all, the people should know the varying degrees of criminal responsibility. Terrorism and rebellion are crimes. The varying degrees of criminal responsibility including being principal, accomplice and accessory.)
"Ang mga batang gagamitin nila sa simula, 'pag may nangyari at konektado sa krimen, hindi alam ng mga bata na sumasama sila sa grupo na masama ang intensyon. Ang tawag mo diyan, red-tagging. Ang tawag ko lang diyan, sinasabi ko lang ang katotohanan tungkol sa gawain ng mga terorista at kaaway ng bayan. Kaya kung sa tingin mo red-tagging yun, yan ay, wala, ganun talaga 'yan," he continued.
(Some minors are initially being tapped. When some things related to criminal activities happen, they are not aware that they joined groups with ill intentions. You call it red-tagging. For me, I'm just telling the truth about the activities of terrorists and other enemies of the nation. If you see it as red-tagging, well, that's how it is.)
But when he assumes the DOJ post, discussion about the matter will probably change for him as the atmosphere may turn "formal", unlike during the campaign season, Remulla said.
"Kaya lang, ngayon na ako ang magiging chairman ng Anti-Terror Council under the Department of Justice, siyempre pormal na atmosphere 'yan. Hindi politikal. Ibang usapan 'yan. At lagi na lang nakabantay ang departamento para bantayan ang karapatan ng taumbayan," he said.
(It will be a different story when I become chairman of the ATC under the DOJ because that's a formal atmosphere already, and it's no longer political. The department will always be on the lookout for the rights of the people.)
Asked to illustrate the "atmosphere" for people who might be accused of terrorism, he said, "Meron tayong (We have a) due process... An information will be filed. There will be a preliminary investigation. They will go through the whole process kung may problema (if they are in trouble). That's how the law works."
To people and groups fearful of his administration, Remulla said: "I'm a professional. I have worked (in) many offices in my life. I have always been a professional. If the political atmosphere is very heated, if many of them cannot accept the fact that we have a newly elected President, isa lang ang pakiusap ko para sa bayan natin: Please let, allow our country to succeed."
"Huwag tayong magbangayan, na nagsisimula pa lang ang lahat, 'di pa nagsisimula, eh parang gusto n'yo na naman kaming durugin," he added.
(Let's avoid clashes. We're just getting started, or we haven't even started yet, but it looks like you already want to crush us.)
Remulla said "some of the political losers" appear to be critics or dissenters who are out to discredit the government.
Nevertheless, he said the people's rights, even of foreigners', will be respected when he takes the helm of the DOJ.
"The DOJ will be a working outfit... I respect the Constitution... In fact, I consider myself a constitutionalist," he said.
"We are not here to protect anybody. We are here to make sure that the country moves forward. Please allow us to make the country succeed. 'Yun lang po ang aking pakiusap (That's my only request)."
More than achieving "the highest dream of any lawyer" like him to become a DOJ Secretary or a Supreme Court justice, Remulla said he hopes to institute reforms in the country's justice system, some of which he was already aware during the time he served the administration of former President Joseph Estrada.
He cited as an example the proposed National Crime Information System for the police, courts, Ombudsman, the National Bureau of Investigation and other related entities to have a single database of their records.
"It will be an action-filled department for sure... Pangalawa, yung cooperation with the Supreme Court and the other branches of the judicial system, pillars of the justice system...," Remulla said when asked to describe how the DOJ will look like under his leadership.
Remulla and other appointees will have to go through the powerful Commission on Appointments before they can formally assume office.
Other personalities who accepted Marcos' offer to be part of his Cabinet are migrant workers advocate Toots Ople and economist Arsenio Balisacan.
Marcos is still awaiting proclamation from the Congress which is tasked to canvass votes cast for the President and Vice President in the May 9 elections.
The change in administration is set to take place on June 30.