Cop who shot mother and son in Tarlac to face murder charges

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 21) — A Parañaque police officer will face two counts of murder for fatally shooting his unarmed neighbors in Paniqui, Tarlac, authorities said on Monday.

The sketchy police report said Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca fled after shooting 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, in Purok 2, Barangay Cabayaoasan, Paniqui, Tarlac on Sunday afternoon. About an hour after the incident, he surrendered at the Rosales Pangasinan Municipal Police Station. The suspect also turned over his PNP-issued 9mm semi-auto pistol that was used in the crime.

PNP Region 3 Chief BGen. Val de Leon said two charges of murder will be filed against the cop as the Department of Interior and Local Government assured a thorough, impartial, and swift investigation.

No bail was recommended, said de Leon.

The police chief of Paniqui in a radio interview said the two parties were involved in a property right-of-way dispute, but the shooting incident stemmed from the firing of a PVC cannon or boga by the Gregorios.

"Pumunta doon para i-confront sila then naungkat na ang usapin sa right of way, hanggang napunta sa insidente na iyon. Parang na-trigger ang galit ng suspek nang magkasagutan iyong anak niya at ang biktimang matanda," Police Lieutenant Colonel Noriel Rombaoa told DZBB in a phone interview.

[Translation: The suspect went there to confront them, then the issue of right-of-way cropped up and the shooting incident happened. The suspect's anger was apparently triggered by the confrontation between his daughter and the older Gregorio.]

The shooting incident was caught on camera and the video is now viral on social media. The policeman can be seen with his young daughter in a heated discussion with an unarmed Frank Anthony, whose mother was holding him back. Nuezca's daughter pointed out that "my father is a policeman," to which Sonya replied that she does not care. An enraged Nuezca threatened to kill Sonya before shooting her point-blank in the head, then proceeded to shoot Frank Anthony twice, before firing at Sonya once again who was already on the ground.


Senators, several personalities, and netizens are criticizing the PNP's role in alleged killings in the country. They are seeking justice for the Gregorios, calling for the end of police brutality and impunity in the Philippines.

In a message on Monday afternoon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there was probable cause to indict Nuezca,

"Upon inquest, the office of the provincial prosecutor of Tarlac has found probable cause to indict respondent Jonel Nuezca for two counts of murder.

He added the criminal information against Nuezca were filed today.

PNP chief Debold Sinas said they were working with neuropsychiatric doctors in camp Crame to determine how Nueza could have shot the Gregorios.

"The background umuwi yung pulis natin, pagdating doon nakita niya na nag away na yung pamilya niya vs doon sa kabila. So bigla siya nag init ang ulo that's why ganun ang nangyari," he said during a press conference on Monday.

[Translation: The background is, the policeman went home and saw his family members fighting with other people. So, he got angry and that's what happened.]

He added they would discuss the incident and might conduct a new study of anger management in the police force, adding they would issue a directive for commanders reminding personnel to rein in their emotions.

"Of course, as the commander we are very angry and saddened, that's why we issued a directive to our unit commanders to please remind our people to hold their anger in any situation para po hindi mangyari ang the same incident po [so a similar incident would not happen]," he said.

The Commission on Human Rights condemned the brazen and senseless killing perpetuated by state forces who are supposed to protect the public. Its regional office is set to investigate the incident.

"It is unacceptable when they are the ones being at the forefront of perpetuating such human rights violations. This incident reechoes our call to the government urging for the conduct of widespread investigations on every allegation of arbitrary killing," spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

CHR also appealed to the public to avoid vilifying Nuezca's daughter and even posting the child's name and photos as it may inflict irreparable trauma.

Isolated incident?

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año condemned the incident, but said it was an "isolated" crime that should not be used to define the entire police force.

"This is an unfortunate but isolated incident... The sin of Nuezca is not the sin of the entire Philippine National Police," he said in a statement.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate refuted Año's statement, saying the Duterte administration's "kill, kill, kill culture" in the police and military enabled the worsening state of impunity in the country.

He cited the death of retired soldier Winston Ragos who was shot at a checkpoint, the beheading of a man in Baguio involving two police officers, and the killing of two elderly National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultants during a raid, among others.

The Duterte administration, including the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines, have been criticized for extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses, and rise in the climate of impunity since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in July 2016.

In the government's war on drugs alone, data shows 5,903 suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations, but local and international human rights groups allege thousands more may have died in extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

No Duterte cloak of protection – Roque

Record shared by the PNP also showed that Nuezca faced six cases over his last 10 years in service for grave misconduct, serious neglect of duty, refusal to undergo a drug test, an administrative case, and suspension. The two homicide cases he was slapped in 2019 were both dismissed due to "lack of substantial evidence."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque is confident Nuezca will not get away this time due to the strong evidence as seen in the video. President Rodrigo Duterte, who has always vowed to support the police, will not protect Nuezca because the crime was committed while he was not in service.

"Ang pulis na iyan ay hindi pwedeng mag-invoke ng kahit anong depensa na may kinalamaan ay kaniyang tungkulin," Roque said in a briefing. "Ito ay tatratuhing ordinaryong murder cases at iimbestigahan, kakasuhan, lilitisin, at mapaparusahan po natin iyang pulis na iyan. No ifs, no buts. Magkakaroon po ng katarungan dahil nakita naman natin ang ebidensya ng pangyayari. Hindi po iyan poprotektahan ng Presidente."

[Translation: That policeman cannot invoke any defense related to his job. This will be treated, tried, investigated like an ordinary murder case. No ifs, no buts. Justice will be served because we saw the evidence. The President will not protect him.]

In a statement, Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her sentiments over the incident, saying both Gregorios probably woke up thinking how they would celebrate the holidays, not realizing this would be their fate.

She said Nuezca should not be the only person blamed for what happened.

"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 a badge, with a gun]," she said.

Robredo said she was one in demanding justice for the Gregorios,

"Kaisa ako sa pagtatrabaho upang magsulong ng mas makataong kultura sa hanay ng pulisya, at sa panawagan ng hustisya para sa mag-inang Gregorio," she said.

[Translation: I am one with working to promote a more humane culture within the police force, and in calling out for justice for the Gregorios.]