In the days leading up to Christmas, social media users watched in horror as a video of a cop killing two unarmed civilians went viral.
The cop in the video was Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, who shot dead Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank in Tarlac province on December 20. In the hours and days that followed, netizens, rights groups, and lawmakers denounced the incident and demanded justice for the mother and son.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte distanced himself from errant cops like Nuezca. He and his allies insist it was an “isolated incident.”
Nuezca, who has had at least 6 administrative cases prior to this one, has been charged with two counts of murder.
Below is a timeline of the events that led up to the shooting as well as what happened after.
December 15, 2020
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Debold Sinas says there is no need to muzzle cops’ guns during the holidays because he believes policemen are disciplined.
The gun muzzling tradition was first stopped in 2016 by then-PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa. Both President Duterte and Dela Rosa, in 2017 and 2018 respectively, have said they are in favor of cops having guns even during their periods of leisure.
December 20, 2020
Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, who was off-duty at the time, shoots dead Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank, 25, in Tarlac province. (READ: Cop shoots unarmed mother, son over ‘boga’ in Tarlac)
Nuezca had gone to the Gregorios to investigate who was shooting boga, an improvised canon usually made of bamboo that is used to make noise during New Year celebrations. He tried to arrest Frank, who appeared drunk, but Sonya intervened. Nuezca shot them both.
Nuezca’s daughter, a minor, was there when her father shot the Gregorios.
The shooting is caught on camera and the video goes viral online, with social media users using the hashtags #StopTheKillingsPH and #JusticeForSonyaGregorio.
The shooting is reported to the Paniqui police station.
Nuezca surrenders to the Rosales police station in Pangasinan province, around 45 minutes away from his home in Barangay Cabayaoasan, Paniqui.
Paniqui police pick up Nuezca and is now under their custody. The Paniqui police station is around 30 minutes away from Rosales police station.
December 21, 2020
A wake is held for Sonya and Frank. Sonya’s husband Florentino Gregorio says they will be buried on December 27.
Statements by the Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and lawmakers condemning the killing pour in. Senators call for a probe into the recent “senseless killings” under the Duterte administration.
In his statement, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año condemns Nuezca’s act, but calls it an “isolated incident.” He says the government will file criminal cases against Nuezca and that justice will be given to the family of the victims.
Responding to Año’s statement, social media users list down incidents of abuses and violations by the police and the military that happened in previous years.
Prosecutors file in Tarlac two counts of murder against Nuezca.
Reporters are given a list of Nuezca’s administrative cases. He has at least 6 administrative cases prior to the incident with the Gregorios, two of which involved grave misconduct involving homicide.
In a statement on PTV News, Sinas condemns the incident, saying, “PNP does not and will never condone any criminal act of our police officers.” An investigation will be held by PNP Internal Affairs Service, he says. He directs them to hasten the resolution of Nuezca’s summary hearing case for his approval of Nuezca’s immediate dismissal from the service.
In his weekly press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque condemns the incident and says that President Duterte will not defend Nuezca. He also says that Duterte will not rescind his order allowing cops to carry firearms while off-duty.
Later that night, Duterte distances himself from abusive law enforcers, saying not to include them in his love for military and police. He also calls the incident an isolated case.
December 22, 2020
The local police chief in Bato, Catanduanes, Police Captain Ariel Buraga, is relieved from duty after making comments on social media, justifying Nuezca’s actions.
In an interview with DZMM, Gregorio says Nuezca and his wife had a disagreement over a piece of land. There were delays in procuring a title for a piece of land that Sonya had sold to Nuezca. Sonya returned his money, but Nuezca filed an estafa case against her, which he lost.
Gregorio also says the presence of Nuezca’s daughter at the time of the shooting may have pushed him to kill Sonya and Frank.
In interviews and statements, senators venture answers on what to do with the increasing number of cops killing ordinary, unarmed citizens.
Tarlac Bishop Enrique Macaraeg condemns the killing of the Gregorios, saying it “makes us bow in shame, guilt, and shock” ahead of Christmas.
The PNP Internal Affairs Service tells DZMM they aim to resolve Nuezca’s case within 30 days. Nuezca admitted to the killings when he surrendered, they say.
That evening, Sinas attends the Gregorios’ wake. He condoles with the family on behalf of the police force. At the wake, Sinas says he will ask all the witnesses to testify to strengthen the case against Nuezca and that he will ask the justice department to place them under witness protection.
He also says the video of the incident has not yet been presented as evidence, as they haven’t secured consent from the person who took it. He also tells reporters at the wake that Nuezca surrendered because he regretted what happened.
December 23, 2020
Nuezca admits to the killings and says he regrets what he did. “Nadala po ako ng sobrang emosyon,” he says. (I was blinded by my emotions.)
In a report on ABS-CBN News, Frank and Sonya’s family says they cannot accept Nuezca’s apology.
The 12- and 16-year-old minors who took the video of the incident agree to testify, according to Sinas. Their guardians agreed to help the police in exchange for security and their entry into the witness protection program. The cellphone used to take the video is turned over to the PNP’s cybercrime group.
December 27, 2020
Hundreds of mourners join the funeral march held for Sonya and Frank. They are escorted by riders from different chapters of the Police Hotline Movement Inc.
Mother and son are buried at the Paniqui Garden of Angels Memorial Park in Barangay Salomague, Paniqui. – Rappler.com
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