Año: Nuezca will ‘rot in jail’ after deadly viral incident

PNP CHIEF IN TARLAC. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police General Debold Sinas visits the wake of Frank and Sonya Gregorio on Tuesday, December 22. The two were shot dead by Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca in Tarlac. Following the crime, some lawmakers have come out to voice out their support—renewing their push for the others to reimpose the death penalty in the Philippines. | PNP photo

PHILIPPINE Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday, December 23, assured that Police Senior M/Sgt. Jonel Nuezca would face the full force of the law for shooting a mother and son dead in Paniqui, Tarlac.

Nuezca shot and killed Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank Anthony, 25, after an altercation on Sunday, December 20. The incident was caught on camera and sparked outrage locally and internationally across social media platforms.

“Justice will be served to the family of victims Sonya and son Frank Anthony Gregorio.

Hindi natin palalagpasin ang karumal-dumal na pagpatay sa kanila. Mabubulok si Nuezca sa kulungan (We will not let this gruesome killing pass. He will rot in jail),” said Año.

Nuezca is currently facing charges for two counts of murder. He surrendered to the authorities at a police station in Rosales, Pangasinan hours after the shooting incident.

The Internal Affairs Service (IAS) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is working to complete Nuezca’s dismissal proceedings within a month.

“Kaya ngayon susubukan naming tapusin ng 30 days yan (So now, we are trying to finish it within 30 days),” said PNP-IAS Director General Alfegar Triambulo.

Tarnished reputation

Año scorned Nuezca for destroying the reputation of the country’s police force and labelled him a “disgrace to the police profession.”

“Sinira nya ang magandang imahe ng kapulisan na mahabang taon na nating pinaghihirapan. Isa siya sa mga bulok sa hanay ng kapulisan na kailangan nating walisin at turuan ng leksiyon (He destroyed the good image of the police that we have worked hard to build for a long time. He is one of the rotten eggs in the ranks of the police whom we have to get rid of and teach a lesson),” he said.

“We will now have to work doubly hard to rebuild the reputation of the police organization and institute more reforms to prevent a repeat of this incident,” the interior chief added.

In light of Nuezca’s actions, Año urged the public to avoid condemning the entire police force, urging everyone to remember the heroic deeds of other policemen and policewomen.

Based on government data, 229 police officers have been killed in action while fighting crime, drug syndicates, and communist-terrorists since 2016. Meanwhile, 812 others were wounded in police operations.

A total of 91,544 police officers have also been serving on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let’s not forget that there are thousands of policemen and policewomen out there who are performing their duties well to serve and protect the people, even those who condemn them,” Año said.

“Kaya huwag po nating lahatin ang ating kapulisan (Let’s not generalize the entire police force),” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte in a public speech on Monday, December 21 condemned the police officer’s actions.

“Ang pagmamahal ko sa trabaho lang natin (My love is for the work we do). You do something which is not — out of the ordinary just pulling a gun and shooting people, you must be… Eh ikulong ninyo ‘yon. Huwag ninyong bitawan ‘yang y*** na ‘yan (Lock him up and do not let him out),” he said Monday night.

He stressed that Nuezca should be detained for committing a serious offense.

“(Nuezca) should not be allowed to go out because double murder ‘yon eh (that’s double murder). Double murder is a serious offense, a grave offense. So from the time you are arrested up to the time that you are hailed to court to answer for the death of those two persons, innocent ones, walang bail ka (you have no bail),” said Duterte.

‘Architecture of impunity’

On the other hand, Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo pointed out that “the person who pulled the trigger” is not the only one at fault, but also a “larger architecture of impunity” that allowed Nuezca to stay in service.

“There will be those who will lay all blame on the person who pulled the trigger, as if he were not part of a larger architecture of impunity. Despite a clear pattern of brutality and a string of cases that made his propensity for violence apparent, the leadership allowed him to remain in service: May tsapa, may baril (with badge and service firearm),” she said.

Prior to the Tarlac shooting, Nuezca faced two homicide cases in 2019 that were dismissed due to the lack of substantial evidence.

Robredo also said she is one with the public in seeking justice for the Gregorio family.

The government, for its part, has extended its assistance to the victims’ family.

According to the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the family will receive financial and food assistance under the agency’s assistance to individuals in the crisis situation program.

The agency also said psychological support will be provided to the witnesses of the shooting incident.

“The psychological support processing that we will do will not only focus on the individuals but on the entire community,” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said in an interview with radio dzBB.

She added, “They all need to be able to recover and rehabilitate as a result of this incident.”

Human rights and civic groups argued that the Tarlac shooting incident was not an isolated case, contrary to what Año and Sinas have said.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson, the killing was “just the latest incident” of the reality that “many members of the Philippine police are simply out of control.”

“As with many incidents of recent police violence, the killing by Nuezca of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank was brazen and underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines,” he added.

HRW also pointed out that Duterte has excused police misconduct countless times in the past.

“Sunday’s killings in Tarlac province are an inevitable result of the Philippine government’s failure to hold erring law enforcers to account,” it added.

Artist-activist group Dakila likewise said that Duterte has normalized the “culture of impunity” in the country.

“This culture of impunity and violence – normalized by the President himself – has encouraged uniformed personnel to abuse their power and use their force outside duty. Their authority doesn’t give them a license to kill and violate law,” it said.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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