In an ideal world, policemen are supposed to serve and protect civilians.
In an normal world, a policeman who was suspended in 2014 for refusing to undergo a drug test and recently faced two other cases for grave misconduct involving homicides, even if the cases were dismissed for lack of evidence, should have been stripped of his service firearm instead of being allowed to wield that government-issued weapon even when off duty.
The resilient Filipino has long accepted the fact that our country is far from ideal, but Sunday’s heinous double murder that was captured on video and involved off duty Staff Sgt. Jonel Nuezca and his 9mm service firearm, provided a horrifying example of how far from normal the Philippines has been drifting in recent years.
The graphic video showed what should have been a regular altercation between Filipino neighbors but ended in a gruesome double murder of an unarmed mother and her son, executed by a policeman father in front of his own young daughter. Nuezca drew his service firearm, shot 52-year-old Sonia Gregorio point blank in the head, and then her 25-year-old son Frank Anthony. As the mother and son fell to the ground, the policeman’s weapon was fired another two times to finish them off.
The video immediately went viral worldwide and Nuezca surrendered to his colleagues. But as the media looked into his record, the gruesome murder video became just another link in a chain of circumstances that pointed to a rot within the Philippine National Police.
While police and government officials continue to harp on the easy excuse that Nuezca’s double murder was an “isolated incident”, the PNP and this administration cannot be excused from the fact their current system allows policemen, like Nuezca, who have faced grave administrative cases, including homicide, to somehow remain in the force and worse, still carry their service firearms even when off duty.
While an argument can be made that double murderer Nuezca just happened to be a policeman, the PNP and this government cannot cherry pick the facts. Everything that allowed that particular policeman to use his government issued firearm against unarmed citizens has to be investigated and corrected, if necessary.
Let us start with not giving firearms to off duty cops. The psychological reassessments, review of all cases that have been filed against erring cops, and purge of all undesirable elements and bad apples that sully the reputation of the PNP can follow immediately thereafter.*