February 1, 2023

Sepukku is a form of ritual suicide that originated with the Samurai class of the Japanese people. It is done to preserve the honor and dignity of the clan.

While the Samurai class of the Japanese people no longer exists, “sepukku” as it is known in the ancient days and for the purpose for which it is committed, is still practiced by some Japanese, especially those who were elected or appointed to government positions. When these persons are implicated in some form of scandal or anomaly, they’d rather take their lives than bear the consequences of public ridicule.

There is nothing in our culture that approximates sepukku. As a people, we have not attained that level of sensitivity where a scandal or an anomaly is enough reason to take one’s life.

The closest that we have to the Japanese ritual killing is the so-called delicadeza. But even delicadeza is most of the time brushed aside as a foregone tradition that evolved into oblivion. Thus, we see among our ranks of public officials clinging to their positions like bees on a honey. They take pride in their acts and actions notwithstanding that it is affecting their honor and dignity.

The past few days have been a test of character for Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla. He is being asked to resign from his post because of an incident involving his son, Juanito Jose III.

On Oct. 11, the younger Remulla was apprehended by personnel of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on the allegation that he was caught sneaking out several kilos of high-grade marijuana. The case against him was filed two days later. Now, he is detained without bail at a Las Piñas jail.

The reaction of the Justice secretary is curt and emotional. He said that he, too, is a father and a public official, which he performs with equal passion. Yet, he has to allow justice to take its course and leave his son to face the consequences of his action.

In his concluding words, he describes this unfortunate incident as a “test for my family, myself, and perhaps, in so many ways, our country, on how we handle a sensitive matter like this.”

So sensitive was the involvement of the Justice secretary’s son in drugs that several quarters are demanding for his resignation. If the Justice secretary is to continue performing his job, he must be above reproach, they insist. By the concept of delicadeza, he must step down. Should he?

The President was blunt when he brushed aside any insinuation that the older Remulla must resign. After all, he is doing fine in his job. As long as he does not interfere in the prosecution and trial of his son, there is no need for him to resign.

This is also the position taken by the opposition through its leader, Rep. Edcel Lagman. The bottomline, he asserts, is that the Justice secretary maintains a hands-off policy regarding the arrest, prosecution and subsequent trial of his son. That is enough not to tarnish his credibility as a public official.

The question begging to be answered though is that: can Secretary Remulla hold on indefinitely against any form of interference in the criminal case of his son? As the Secretary of Justice, he has full control and supervision over all prosecutors or fiscals, including those who are tasked to prosecute his son. He is the big boss of the very agency tasked to prove the accused’ guilt.

What about his being a father, which he admits he performs with the same ardor and passion as his being a public official? Surely, as a father, Sec. Remulla is having sleepless nights these past few days, thinking about the situation and the condition of his son. What father will not? Well, if there is truth to what all Filipino families hold dear in their hearts that “blood is thicker than water,” will the Secretary of Justice relent and do more to help his son?

This is where the conflict of interest may come into play. This is what is feared by those demanding for Secretary Remulla to resign.

In this kind of situation, there is no reason to believe that the public officer concerned has the emotional ability as well as stability to separate his paternity from his official function.

The Justice Secretary may be able to exercise restraint for the next few coming months. After all, when media exposure has been laid to rest, when the public has lost any interest in keeping track of the case, and when the veil of silence falls in the trial, what happens next becomes blurry.

Will Secretary Remulla hold true to his word? Only time can tell.