The cold blooded killing of Sonya Rufino Gregorio and her son Frank Gregorio should serve as a wake-up call for us all. It is a morbid reminder of how morality, decency, and humanity have eroded among the police. Once trusted members of society, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has become a grotesque personification of the seven deadly sins — pride, wrath, greed, lust, envy, sloth, and gluttony.
The double murder was committed by Sgt. Jonel Nuezca, a policeman on active duty with a rap sheet that includes grave misconduct, refusal to submit to a drug test, neglect of duty and homicide. As to why he was allowed to continue serving in the police force despite grave violations and obvious psychological incapacity speaks volumes about how low the standards at the PNP have sunk. It is indicative of the PNP’s proclivity for making exceptions for favored personalities.
The mother and son were killed without hesitation and for the most banal of reasons — a right of way dispute.
As if wounding the victims were not enough, Nuezca even took a second shot while the mother and son were down, just to finish them off.
All these took place while Nuezca’s daughter watched and recorded a video, as if to immortalize her father’s superiority over the neighbors. What is appalling is that the daughter did not even beg for mercy on behalf of the victims. In fact, the young girl did not even flinch when the father successively shot the victims. With her flared nose and piercing eyes (as seen on the video), the young girl appeared as enraged as her father even after the victims were shot. For her sake, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) must intervene with therapy lest this young kid turn into a psychopath.
In an official statement, PNP Chief of Police General Debold Sinas claimed that this is an isolated case that does not reflect the values of the PNP. With all due respect, I say this argument does not hold water. Killing without impunity has been the standard mode of the PNP since the war on drugs began. In fact, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, some 5,856 low level drug dealers and suspected users have already been assassinated without due process since 2016. With such a ghastly record of violence against civilian society, the police have ceased to be our protectors and defenders but instead, our tormentors and killers. The Gregorio double murder is by no means an isolated case, rather, it is among the rare ones caught on video.
Subsequently, Mr. Sinas advised the public not to take videos of crimes as it could be “tricky.” This statement surprised many. It suggests that the PNP Chief himself would rather deprive the public of an actual account of a criminal act and instead have us all rely on the police’ interpretation of the incident. The statement bared to view Mr. Sinas’ apparent aversion for transparency.
Adding insult to injury was the statement of Police Captain Ariel Baruga of the municipality of Bato in Catanduanes who said the murder of the Gregorios should teach the public to respect cops. The statement reeks of arrogance, entitlement, and the delusion of grandeur which now afflicts many members of the PNP.
The police were not always the people’s tormentor and masters of rub-outs and cover ups. I remember a time when the they were revered, respected, and loved by the community. How did they become the nation’s symbol of abuse?
The war on drugs and the manner by which it is waged is to blame for this. Under orders from the PNP’s Commander in Chief, the police were instructed to enforce the law with a heavy, violent hand. They were promised protection even if they killed with impunity. They were allowed to carry firearms even when off duty and out of uniform. All these corrupted the PNP’s psyche and gave them a sense that they are above the law.
The PNP has seen how friends and allies of the administration are made exempt from the law, just as Senator Koko Pimentel and Mr. Sinas were for breaking IATF restrictions. In fact, the latter was even rewarded with a promotion. They witnessed how vicious revenge towards enemies is not only perpetuated, it is lustfully pursued. All these contributed to the rotting of values.
Although the PNP was never given explicit orders to overstep their code of conduct, the examples and actuations of their Commander in Chief lead them to become who they are today.
What should worry us all is that this sense of arrogance, heavy handedness, and entitlement will seep deeper into the PNP’s culture if it is not nipped in the bud. As we all know, the deeper one falls into a rabbit hole of bad behavior, the more difficult it is to change. A case in point is the culture of corruption instilled by Marcos.
Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do until there is a change in leadership. We cannot expect a zebra to change its stripes. We simply have to wait for 2022 when a new President is installed. When the time comes, let us hope that the PNP’s new Commander in Chief will reboot the entire police force and reset its culture towards honor, trustworthiness, credibility, and a respect for human rights. They need to get centered again on their true role in society, which is to protect and defend our people.
This is why our next President must be morally upright, decent, civilized, and committed to uphold human rights.
Without a reboot of the PNP, Gregorio-style murders will surely happen again with increasing frequency.
Andrew J. Masigan is an economist