Philippine authorities investigating fatal shooting incident in Tarlac involving police officer
MANILA: The authorities in the Philippines said on Monday (Dec 21) they were investigating a fatal shooting incident in Tarlac, north of capital Manila, involving 46-year-old police officer Jonel Nuezca.
He is also reportedly facing double murder charges.
In a statement, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it "strongly" condemned the shooting, which led to the deaths of two people said to be Nuezca's neighbours in his hometown of Paniqui.
According to ABS-CBN News, Nuezca shot 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son, 25-year-old Frank, multiple times on Sunday in an argument over an improvised cannon.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano said Nuezca was assigned at the Paranaque City Police Station, but had gone home to Paniqui.
"The formal investigation into the incident has commenced and we assure the family and the public that the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the National Police Commission will conduct a thorough, impartial and swift investigation," said Ano.
"The DILG will ensure that justice will be given to the family of the victims and that administrative and criminal cases will be filed against Nuezca.
"We do not and will never tolerate such acts and we will make sure that he will account for his crimes."
In a statement, PNP chief Police General Debold Sinas promised justice for this "isolated act of criminality".
"The PNP leadership strongly condemns to the highest order the criminal act committed by one of our police personnel that had gone viral," he said.
"Words are not enough to assuage the feelings of the bereaved family of the victims, Mrs Sonia Gregorio, and her son, Frank. But we assure them and the Filipino people that justice will be served.
"The PNP does not and will never condone any criminal act of our police officers, in particular the case involving PSSg Jonel M Nuezca, as criminal action has already been initiated by the Chief of Police of Paniqui Municipal Police Station in Tarlac where subject policeman is now placed in detention."
In an interview with local news network GMA, police chief Noriel Rombaoa said Nuezca and the Gregorios were involved in a property right-of-way dispute.
However, witnesses reported that the shooting was sparked by a confrontation over the firing of a boga, a type of noisemaker usually used for revelries.
"The suspect went there to confront them, then the issue of right-of-way cropped up and the shooting incident happened," said Rombaoa.
A video circulating online, purportedly of the shooting, showed a man believed to be Nuezca in an altercation with two people, said to be the older Gregorio and her son. Frank Gregorio appeared to be arguing with Nuezca, who had a girl believed to be his daughter standing by his side.
Nuezca's daughter was heard shouting "my father is a policeman", to which Mrs Gregorio said "I don't care".
Nuezca then threatened to kill Mrs Gregorio before shooting her and her son point-blank.
Citing police reports, Inquirer said Nuezca fled the scene on a motorcycle, but surrendered to the authorities in Pangasinan about an hour later. He also turned in the police-issued pistol he used in the shooting.
The video has sparked calls on social media to end police brutality, with #StopTheKillingsPH, #JusticeforSonyaGregorio and #PulisAngTerorista (Police are terrorists) trending on Twitter on Monday.
DILG said the incident was "an unfortunate but isolated" one. "While there are unfortunate incidents like this, the vast majority of our PNP personnel perform their sworn duties everyday with honour and integrity to protect and serve the people," said Secretary Ano.
"The sin of Nuezca is not the sin of the entire Philippine National Police. As we have seen during this pandemic, they place their very lives on the line as frontliners in our COVID response," he added.