'Pure evil': Lawmakers condemn police killing of mother, son in Tarlac

Lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives condemned the killing of Sonya and Frank Gregorio by Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca in Paniqui, Tarlac, on Sunday, December 20.

A chilling mobile phone video that went viral showed Nuezca shooting the Gregorio mother and son point blank in front of his young daughter.

Nuezca had tried to arrest Frank Gregorio, 25, for having fired an improvised bamboo cannon called boga. The confrontation escalated when an old tussle over right of way between the neighbors came up. It ended with the victims plopping to the ground after Nuezca shot them in their heads. The cop then fired at the motionless bodies a few more times.

The incident sparked public outrage, with netizens demanding justice for the two victims. Nuezca is in detention and will face double murder charges.

Several senators filed a resolution on Monday afternoon, December 21, seeking a legislative probe into the seemingly endless series of "unlawful killings" of lawyers, doctors, journalists, activists, and ordinary people in recent months and years.

The House of Representatives' Makabayan bloc also filed a resolution calling on the lower chamber to condemn the incident and investigate the widespread police brutality in the country. 

Some lawmakers said the incident makes a good case for restoring capital punishment.

The incident has put the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the hot seat. It has also raised questions about the persistent impunity for killings in the Philippines, with lingering echoes of President Rodrigo Duterte stating he would protect uniformed servicemen who kill in the name of public order.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

"We share the anguish that many feel about a mother and her son, who were shot dead by a police officer in Paniqui, Tarlac, over the weekend. The public outrage over the incident is totally understandable.

"We sympathize with the family of Mrs Sonya Gregorio and her son, Frank Anthony, especially their young and innocent relatives who, unfortunately, bore witness to the horrific killings. It is our fervent hope that the circumstances surrounding their deaths are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately served. The culprit, Police Officer Jonel Nuezca, must not go unpunished and that his effective prosecution must be ensured.

"The incident also highlights the need for the leadership of the Philippine National Police to remind its ranks on the proper and responsible use of their weapons and that they should, as much as possible, apply non-violent means at all times. Police officers must be reminded that force and firearms may only be used if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result."

Senator Franklin Drilon, Senate minority leader

"This is pure evil. That devil who committed an evil act in front of his own daughter deserves to rot in jail. I have no words to describe his unspeakable act. He should spend Christmas and a lifetime in jail.

"So long as the culture of impunity exists in the country, and when there is a system that rewards misdeeds instead of punishing them, police abuses and violence will continue. Impunity breeds trigger-happy cops."

Senator Leila de Lima, former justice secretary and human rights chief

"Appalling and shocking! Walang puso at konsensya lamang ang kayang gumawa ng ganitong karumal-dumal at kalunos-lunos na krimen (Only the heartless and those without conscience can commit a heinous and devastating crime like this).

"This is another incident that desensitizes the public towards violence and cruelty, a proof that authorities can go overboard with abuse of power especially when you give them a license to 'kill, kill, kill,'

"Dahil sa mga berdugong pahayag at paghimok ni Duterte na pumatay, kahit sa pinakamaliit na dahilan, pumapatay na ang mga pulis (Because of Duterte's executioner-type statements and goadings to kill, even for the smallest reasons, the police now kill)!"

Senator Francis Pangilinan

"Nakakagalit ang pangyayari. 'Yan ang resulta kapag kinukunsinti o hindi pinaparusahan ang mga pulis na [abusante] at tiwali. Hihintayin natin ang pagkondena ng administrasyon sa pangyayari, at sisiguruhing mapaparusahan sa halip na kunsintihin o i-promote pa ang mga tiwali at [abusanteng] pulis.

"Dahil walang parusa sa kapulisan o mga matataas na opisyal ng gobyerno na sangkot sa katiwalian o kaya inaabuso ang pwesto, tuloy-tuloy ang pang-aabuso ng mga ito.

"Dagdag pa rito ang nangingibabaw na kultura ng dahas at patayan dahil sa pag-uudyok sa kapulisan na huwag matakot na pumatay."

(The incident is infuriating. That's the result of condoning and not punishing the police who are abusive or corrupt. We will wait for the administration's condemnation of the incident, and make sure that corrupt and abusive cops are punished instead of condoned or promoted.)

(Because police or high-ranking government officials face no punishment for corruption or abuse of power, their abuses continue.)

(Adding to this is the prevailing culture of violence and killings because of calls to the police not to be afraid to kill.)

Senator Panfilo Lacson, former national police chief

"If what's on video tells the whole story, I enjoin the Philippine National Police leadership to 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.

"As a policy recommendation, policemen should turn in their issued firearms to their unit's armorer or supply officer when on off-duty status. That said, they should not be issued Permits to Carry Firearms Outside Residence while still in the active service.

"The PNP should always uphold its motto 'To Serve and Protect.' That includes taking appropriate steps to protect our people from scalawags in their ranks, whether they are on duty or not."

Senator Risa Hontiveros

"Saan papunta ang lipunan natin (Where is our society headed)?

"If a law enforcer & father can feel so invincible that he thinks it's his right to murder an unarmed mother & her son.

"Without missing a heartbeat. In front of his child. Shot them in the heads. Binaril pa yung bangkay dalawang beses (Even shot the corpses twice)."

Hontiveros punctuated her tweeted statement with #StopThe KillingsPH.

Senator Nancy Binay

"Dapat seryosohing baguhin ng PNP ang style at pag-uugali ng mga miyembro nito (The PNP should seriously change the style and behavior of its members). Police behavior and practices should be directed to the desire of helping the people and the community. To a great degree, dahil na rin sa maling konsepto ng pagiging (and also because of the wrong concept of being a) figure of authority and false notion of empowerment, 'yung value structure na supposedly civilian in character ay naging (the value structure that's supposedly civilian in structure has become) inherently authoritarian.

"Something is deeply wrong when you have both top cops and rank-and-file who flout the law. Wala nang takot, dahil tila hindi naman na yata sila napaparusahan. Kadalasan napo-promote pa nga (They fear nothing, because it seems they do not get punished. Often, they're even promoted).

"May ninja cops, mañanita cops, ex-cop na land grabber at illegal logger, berdugong pulis – buong taon may nakakahiyang headline tungkol sa pulis. Ano na ba ang ginagawa ng liderato tungkol dito (There are ninja cops, mañanita cops, ex-cop who's a land grabber and illegal logger, executioner cops – all year, there've been embarrassing headlines about cops. What is the leadership doing about this)? The people expect the police to be their defenders, not their offenders.

"Rather than being the people's assurance of law and order, lately many of our cops are becoming the face of terror and impunity, blatantly disregarding the rule of law and spitting on our values. Tama na, sobra na, kailangang itigil na ang pang-aabuso (Enough is enough, it's time to end these abuses)."

Senator Joel Villanueva

"The senseless killing of a woman and her son by a police officer highlights the prevailing culture of impunity among law enforcement agencies that should never be allowed to persist.

"No words can capture the outrage we feel over the cold-blooded murder of a mother and her son in broad daylight by a police officer who took an oath to serve and to protect the people. We expect that the PNP leadership will leave no stone unturned and justice will prevail.

"We must put an end to the culture of impunity once and for all. We cannot let our workers such as doctors, lawyers, journalists, advocates, and even ordinary citizens live in fear and insecurity, and suffer senseless deaths."

Senator Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr

"This is one compelling case for the reinstitution of the death penalty.

"Hindi ka tao kung magagawa mong pumatay ng ganun lang, at sa harap pa mismo ng iyong anak. Tapos lalakad lang kayo palayo na parang walang nangyari (You're not human if you can stomach killing just like that, and in front of your own child. Then you walk away as if nothing happened.).

"The PNP should review its standards. Hindi dapat hinahayaan ang mga bulok sa organisasyon dahil nadadamay lahat. Kung pababayaan nila ang mga bugok, makakahawa pa 'yan at ayan, nakikita na natin ang resulta (The rotten should not be tolerated in the organization because it affects all members. If they condone the rotten, they will multiply and, see, we're seeing the result)."

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro

"The Duterte administration's legacy is creating monsters that recklessly use their guns, points and shoots it at whoever is in their way towards claiming and abusing power. We demand justice for the victims of police brutality and demand an end to the worsening culture of impunity in the Philippines.

"This is not an isolated incident. There is systematic and chronic abuse of power in the police and military that the Duterte administration cannot deny especially when 'shoot-to-kill' orders come straight from the mouth of the commander-in-chief."

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas

"Malapit na magpasko at ang regalo sa atin ng gobyerno at ng kapulisan ay matinding kultura ng impyunidad at karahasan sa ating lipunan. Taon-taon, tampok na pamaskong handog sa mga pamilya ang kaliwa't kanang pagpatay at karahasan sa pangunguna ni President Duterte at ng AFP-PNP. Sina 'Nay Sonya at Frank, Reina Nasino at Baby River, Amanda Echanis at Baby Randall, Fabel Pineda, Kian delos Santos at marami pang mga pamilyang naulila sa 'war on drugs' ay ilan lamang sa mahabang listahan ng mga kababaihan, bata, at pamilyang target ng 'shoot them dead' order ni President Duterte sa mga mahihirap at walang kalaban-laban."

(It's almost Christmas and the government's and police's gift to us is a dire culture of impunity and violence in our society. Every year, their gift to every family features the killings left and right, and violence instigated by President Duterte and the AFP-PNP. Mrs Sonya and Frank, Reina Nasino and Baby River, Amanda Echanis and Baby Randall, Fabel Pineda, Kian delos Santos, and many other families left bereaved by the 'war on drugs' are just a few on the long list of women, children and families targeted by the 'shoot them dead' order of President Duterte involving the poor and defenseless.)

Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez

"The video footage of a policeman shooting, in cold blood, two unarmed citizens at point blank is both disheartening and alarming. What happened is not acceptable. We rightly condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

"In addition to holding Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca immediately responsible for his actions, we must look at the Philippine National Police as an institution – now tagged by some as PNP 'Pumapatay Ng Pilipino' – and review and reform what is wrong with it.

"Pursuant to this aim, let us also demand that command responsibility be implemented in our police force led by PNP chief Debold Sinas. If the chief cannot effectively lead PNP and guide its personnel towards serving and protecting the Filipino people, he should not be PNP chief at all.

"Failure of leadership is not acceptable. Lives are at risk. The credibility of the police force is in ruins. Reform the PNP, or resign."

House Deputy Speaker and Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido 'Sonny' Abante Jr

"Whatever the root of their argument, the shooting is unjustifiable and indefensible; the Gregorios were clearly unarmed and were no danger to Sgt. Nuezca.

"As a police officer, his duty is clear: to uphold the law and protect our citizens. Instead, he brazenly broke our laws and killed those he swore to serve, in full view of his own daughter and civilians.

"By committing these acts in broad daylight and in front of so many witnesses, it is obvious that Nuezca believes his police badge places him above the law.

"Such impunity cannot be tolerated, and I believe that the ultimate punishment – the death penalty – should be revived to punish heinous crimes like these, to deter uniformed personnel from abusing their power."

House Deputy Speaker and Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman

"Ang pagiging pulis ay 'di dapat pagmulan ng yabang. Ikaw dapat ang law enforcer at protektor, at hindi mamamatay-tao. Tandaan mo, sa buwis ng bayan kinukuha ang sweldo mo, ng lahat ng nasa gobyerno.

"Nasaan ang maximum tolerance principle? Dapat meron ka niyan, suot mo man o hindi ang uniporme mo. Kung may nagawa mang krimen, dapat dinala mo sa presinto at isinuko, para maidaan sa tamang proseso. Huwag mong dungisan ang institusyon na pinanggalingan mo."

(Being a policeman should not be a source of conceit. You are supposed to be the law enforcer and protector, and not the killer. Remember, you and others in the government are paid with the people's taxes.)

(Where is the maximum tolerance principle? You should have that, whether or not you are donning your uniform. If a crime was indeed committed [by the victim], then you should have brought [him] to the precinct and surrendered him, so that due process might take its course. Do not mar the institution you came from.)

Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon

"The PNP should not just treat this as an isolated case but a symptom of what could be ailing the institution. Don’t stop at prosecution of one but follow with an evaluation of the training, the monitoring of skills, mental health, and discipline, as well as protocols and procedures."

Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo

"To me, this horrible incident points to a systemic problem in how we prepare and evaluate those who police our citizens. Are current tools for screening members of the police force effective? Are policies for ensuring their tactical knowledge and mental fitness properly enforced? Is the policy of allowing policemen to carry guns while off-duty appropriate?

"This morning, I filed a resolution to launch an inquiry on the PNP's current standards for evaluating the tactical knowledge and mental fitness of all its uniformed personnel. The killings of both Sonya and Frank Gregorio are a symptom of lapses in our law enforcement. Congress must act now to determine what reforms are needed to ensure that PNP personnel are of sound body and mind in the performance of their duties. Congress must also assess whether it is time to prohibit policemen from carrying guns while off-duty, as how it is in other countries."

House Deputy Speaker and CIBAC Representative Eddie Villanueva

"The brazen and senseless shooting of a mother and son by a policeman in Tarlac must be a sudden prick to our consciousness which might have become accustomed to incidences of killings in the country. It should be a stern warning that justice must be served for every fall of life – particularly if brutal cold-blooded killing. Or else, we make the culture of impunity larger each day that we let injustice get away. The Tarlac incident should be a foreshadowing of what is ahead of us if abuse of power and wanton disregard of the sanctity of life will not be stopped now."

ACT-CIS Representative Niña Taduran

"Ang pagdadala ng baril ng mga pulis kahit off-duty ay isang malaking responsibilidad (Carrying a gun even while off-duty is a big responsibility for a policeman). It is their duty to themselves and to the people around them to practice gun safety rules and to keep their fingers off the trigger unless extremely necessary. If there’s no threat, don’t use your gun. Hindi 'yan pang-power trip (That's not for power-tripping)." – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.