Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: December 22, 2020 07:36 AM GMT
Policemen in the Philippines have often been accused of operating with impunity. (Photo: Vincent Go/UCA News)
Catholic churchmen in the Philippines have condemned the killing of a mother and her son by a policeman in a shooting that was caught on video and went viral.
Police Corporal Jonel Nuezca shot dead Sonya Gregoria, 52, and her son Frank, 25, in the city of Talac, north of Manila, on Dec. 20 after Nuezca tried to arrest his neighbor, Frank Gregoria, for firing an air cannon made out of bamboo.
A heated argument broke out and Nuezca opened fire when Sonya Gregoria intervened.
Footage of the shooting taken by another neighbor and shared on social media showed the off-duty policeman shooting Sonya Gregoria while she was on the ground and then walking off with his daughter.
The policeman reportedly said “Son of a bitch, you want me to finish you off now?” before killing the victims.
Nuezca surrendered at a police station an hour after the shootings and has been charged with two counts of murder. He is in custody with no bail recommended.
Father Jose Macarbo of Masbate Diocese called the killings “brutal” and “senseless” as the video footage showed the victims were unarmed.
“The force employed by the policeman was not commensurate to the act done by the mother. Provocation may be present but it did not justify the use of arms,” Father Macarbo told UCA News.
He called for swift justice for the victims.
Vincentian priest Father Danny Pilario also condemned the incident, saying it was a result of a climate of impunity stemming from the government’s “demonizing” of anyone who stands in its way.
“In the Philippines, this present government consistently demonizes and effectively eliminates those who are different and the voices of dissent which threaten its mono-logic power,” he said.
The priest said there was a blanket authority from President Rodrigo Duterte for police officers to kill any person.
The priest was referring to Duterte telling policemen he would have their backs in his war on drugs, which has killed thousands of people since he came to power in 2016. “I’ll take care of you,” he is reported to have told them.
“There has been a blanket authority from the start. There is no better way to operationalize impunity which has now become the rule of the day,” said Father Pilario.
Duterte’s assurance has given courage to policemen who have abused their authority without fear of accountability, he said.
“This can embolden any trigger-happy policeman or their assets to just shoot any time. This does not just happen now. It has been happening in the last four years.”