Tarlac court convicts cop Nuezca for murder of mother and son

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) — The police officer who fatally shot his unarmed neighbors Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony Gregorio was found guilty of two counts of murder on Thursday.

Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca was sentenced by the Paniqui Regional Trial Court Branch 106 to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment for each count of murder.

Nuezca, who was dismissed from service after the shooting in Paniqui, Tarlac on Dec. 20, 2020, was ordered to pay P952,560.

"A 'shoot first, think later' disposition occupies no decent place in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement," Judge Stella Marie Gandia-Asuncion said in her 18-page decision.

The violence was caught on camera and the video went viral on social media. The policeman was seen with his young daughter in a heated discussion with 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 while she was already on the ground.

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The judge said the cellphone video and witness accounts showed that the shots fired by Nuezca were so sudden that the victims were not able to react. She said if the circumstance of treachery is present, the crime is considered murder.

"The attack made by the accused was so swift and sudden that the victims were not able to defend themselves. The shots fired were made in quick succession. Hence, the attack made it treacherous," Gandia-Asuncion wrote.

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

Aside from the brutal killing, Nuezca previously faced homicide raps, six cases of grave misconduct, demotion over robbery and extortion charges, among other issues.

Critics slammed the Philippine National Police following the incident, calling an end to police brutality and impunity in the country.

The PNP meanwhile welcomed the court's decision, saying justice has finally been served for the Gregorios.

“Justice is finally served with the conviction of former police sergeant Jonel Nuezca. He was already dismissed from the service long before this conviction which means that all his benefits were already forfeited,” PNP chief PGen Guillermo Eleazar said in a statement.

He added that Nuezca’s case will “serve as a lesson that will constantly remind us that as police officers, we are the protectors of the Filipino people, and not their tormentors.”