MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Just days before Christmas, Filipinos woke up on Monday morning (Dec 21) to a harrowing five-minute video of an off-duty police officer shooting point blank at a neighbour and her son in broad daylight over some disputes in front of a small crowd.
The incident was shocking and disturbing for its portrayal of brazen impunity, critics said. It has also once again cast a harsh light on perceived abuses by policemen purportedly emboldened by a president said to be mollycoddling officers carrying out his bloody drug war.
The video showed Mrs Sonya Gregorio, 52, with her arms wrapped tightly around her son, Mr Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, as they were being confronted by Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, 46, just outside her house in Paniqui town, Tarlac province, 230km north of the capital Manila.
Initial media reports said the scuffle began after Mr. Gregorio set off an air cannon made out of a PVC pipe at around 5pm on Sunday, creating loud noises.
Nuezca stormed out of his house to confront and arrest Mr Gregorio. A heated argument ensued, not just over the noises but also a long-running land dispute Nuezca had with Mrs Gregorio’s family.
Her relatives gathered around Nuezca as the dispute escalated. A man was seen trying to pacify him. One woman was wailing and pleading for Mr Gregorio to just apologise and for Nuezca to leave.
Seconds before the shooting, Nuezca’s daughter, a minor, approached Mrs Gregorio, slapped the woman’s arm, and told her to let go of her son and hand him over to Nuezca, who by then had grabbed one of Mr Gregorio’s arms.
“Just let go of him! Just let go!” the girl shouted. Mrs Gregorio told her: “You tell (your father) to let go.”
When the girl shouted that her father is a policeman, the woman replied “I don’t care!” and taunted her.
Nuezca then pulled out his 9mm pistol and shot Mrs Gregorio in the head, with dozens watching and at least two people taking videos with their phones. He then shot Mr Gregorio, also in the head.
Just before he fled the scene, he again shot Mrs Gregorio in the head as she was sprawled on the ground.
Nuezca surrendered hours later and is now facing murder charges. Investigators said he expressed remorse over what he did.
By late Monday morning, the hashtags #StopTheKillingsPH, #JusticeforSonyaGregorio”, #EndPolicebrutality, #PulisAngTerorista and #OUSTDUTERTENOW were trending on Twitter in the Philippines and Singapore.
Politicians, celebrities and social media influencers demanded accountability and justice for the victims.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, said the Philippine National Police (PNP) should show no mercy. “They should spare no effort to make sure that he rots in jail. He’s the last policeman that they need in the force,” he said.
Opposition senator Franklin Drilon shared the same sentiment. “This is pure evil. That devil who committed an evil act in front of his own daughter deserves to rot in jail,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, whose ministry supervises the 200,000-strong police force, said: “We do not and will never tolerate such acts and we will make sure that he will account for his crimes”.
But Mr Ano described it as an “unfortunate but isolated incident”.
THE STRAIT TIMES