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MANILA, Philippines – On his first official day in office, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla hit what he called thriving syndicates at the three most problematic agencies under the Department of Justice (DOJ): the Land Registration Authority (LRA), Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Acknowledging that “99.9% in these agencies are good people,” Remulla said during the flag ceremony on Monday, July 4: “To the .1% that is not, probably it will be a different day for all of them.”
Remulla said the briefers given to him, official and unofficial, and his own study point to the three agencies as “needing work and our help.”
For example, Remulla said, the alleged syndicate at the LRA has a presence in all branches of government. He did not specify, but LRA was named as one of the “graft-prone” agencies by the DOJ itself. This was in the report of the Menardo Guevarra-led anti-corruption task force probe in 2021.
“Kayo ba dito na kasama ko ay papayag na tumagal pa ang sindikatong ito na marahil darating ang isang araw na lahat ng tahanan natin ay makuha na nila kapag ating pinayagan na sila ay manaig pa sa ating lipunan?” said Remulla before the employees of the DOJ Monday morning.
(Will you allow this syndicate to thrive and shall we wait for the day when they will get a hold of all agencies if we let them dominate society?)
In BI, Remulla said there are “extortion syndicates, human trafficking syndicates, and protection syndicates.”
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, a plunder conviction was handed down to former immigration officials for a bribery scam that involved gaming tycoon Jack Lam. Charges were also filed during the last days of the administration against officials involved in the pastillas scam, or the scheme of extorting money from Chinese citizens in exchange for entry to the country.
“The sad thing about the Bureau of Immigration is that they exercise sovereign powers, it is the face of the country and we Filipinos have a duty to protect our own country, what more for the frontline organization that people see when they enter and leave the country,” said Remulla.
Remulla added: “Gusto ‘nyo bang magtagal pa ang ganitong imahe ng ating bansa dahil may departamento, may isang opisina na nakakalimot na sa kanyang mandato na paglingkuran ang taumbayan?”
(Do you want this image to persist in our country just because one department has forgotten its mandate to serve the people?)
When Remulla mentioned BuCor as the third agency, whispers of agreement were heard among the employees.
Remulla said of BuCor, “Hanggang ngayon walang tigil ang activities na nangyayari na talagang nakakasira sa ating lipunan (Until now, activites that really destroy our society persist).”
“Kung lahat po ay pag-uusapan natin sa umagang ito baka lumulubog na ang araw ay hindi pa tayo tapos sapagkat napakabigat ng suliranin ng ating bayan. At bakit ba tayo pinili ng Pangulo, maybe he chose me because I can get things done,” said Remulla.
(If we are to discuss everything this morning, we might not yet be done by the time the sun sets because the country really has difficult problems. Why did the President choose us?)
‘I get things done’
Remulla is 61 years old and had served during the Estrada administration as an assistant secretary in the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) office. He ran unopposed as representative of the 7th district of Cavite in the 2022 elections, but said he couldn’t say no to heading the DOJ instead of serving another term in Congress.
“31 million people said, direct voters said that you will lead our country and who am I to say no to a challenge given to me by the man chosen by the people?” said Remulla.
The Remullas are a close ally of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., their father Juanito Remulla Sr. a loyal associate of the deposed president.