On Dec. 20, Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca of the Parañaque City Police Crime Lab shot two of his neighbors dead in Tarlac after a brief argument. The victims, 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and 25-year-old Frank Anthony Gregorio, are mother and son confronted in their own backyard by Nuezca over the improvised firecracker that they lit. This altercation was caught on camera, which was then posted on social media and earned the ire of many netizens.
After the video went viral, the phrase “my father is a policeman” was among the trending topics related to the incident. It was uttered by Nuezca’s young daughter, who was also seen in the clip. Criticisms were directed towards the young girl, with netizens calling her out for “lack of empathy” as she stood unflinching even as two people were gunned down in front of her. But doesn’t that deflect from the actual issue?
Her father—the policeman, who has a sworn duty to protect citizens—was the one who pulled the trigger, not her. He was the one who owned, carried, pointed and used the gun on the mother and son after their argument. As an instigator, she is part of the problem and we’re not really defending her, but we should also acknowledge that she’s not the root.
Sure, what she said and did was wrong, and we are all in utter disbelief that a child sees being a police officer as a privilege instead of duty, but isn’t this a mere mirror of what’s actually happening in our country? Yes, this kid needs to know better, but we’re literally focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of mocking her and calling her names for being an instigator or reacting as if she’s used to hearing gunshots and seeing people die, maybe we should stop and think about how terrifying it is that someone at a young age seems to be so used to witnessing such cruelty that she remains unmoved when two people are killed in front of her. As if claiming other people’s lives is normal.
A long record of cruelty and impunity
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Palace condemns the policeman’s actions, adding that the incident will be treated as a regular murder case. However, the President still stands by the order that permits police officers to carry their guns even if they’re off-duty. He’s just one rotten egg, the Palace says. Not all police officers are like Nuezca, the Palace says. But that doesn’t erase the fact that 155 persons were killed by the police from April to July 2020 based on Human Rights Watch’s latest report in September.
Roque says the palace condemns the policeman’s killing of a mother and son in Tarlac, says this is not service related and the policeman cannot invoke his job as a defense. The killing will be treated as an ordinary murder case, he says. | @LeilasINQ pic.twitter.com/XF8DdCx7IL— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) December 21, 2020
Let’s not forget the fatal shooting of former Army Cpl. Winston Ragos in April. The rampant culture of impunity and perpetuation of violence in the country must have also encouraged unknown gunmen to kill Anakpawis chair, activist and peace consultant Randy Echanis in August, and red-tagged health officer Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan earlier this December. If violence and wielding guns were to become the default response instead of dialogue in every conflict, will anyone even remain alive in this country? Is this what we want children to learn?[READ: Our bloody history shows us exactly why we’re afraid of the police]
What a child sees, a child does
Roque was right: Nuezca is a rotten egg, and he embodies all the rotten eggs in the police force. We’re talking about the trigger-happy gun wielders and those who abuse their position and act as if they’re above the law, instead of being tasked to enforce the law.
There are a lot of red flags about Nuezca. Prior to the incident, records show that he has two previous homicide cases that were dismissed due to lack of evidence. He also received a 10-day suspension in 2010 and had cases of grave misconduct and neglect of duty filed against him from 2013 to 2016. With these very serious administrative cases, why was he allowed to remain in the police force? We mean, homicide being overlooked, really? And this is not really an isolated case, if we’re being honest.
LOOK: Jonel Nuezca, the police officer who shot dead his two neighbors, a mother and her son, in Paniqui, Tarlac, surrendered to the Rosales Municipal Police Station.— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) December 21, 2020
(📷Paniqui Municipal Police via Cathrine Gonzales, https://t.co/EDjVS4HOwc)
READ: https://t.co/InNJe2exBA pic.twitter.com/jz8SPffWwS
On the evening of Dec. 20, Nuezca surrendered to authorities. He is now detained at Tarlac’s Paniqui Municipal Police Office. According to Paniqui police station Lt. Col. Noriel Rombaoa, Nuezca and the victims were also involved in a land dispute before the shooting, a further motive that may have led to his unhesitating resort to the gun to settle their latest altercation.
Nuezca’s history isn’t exactly spotless, and that gives us room to think. Is this what children saw as they grew up and is indifference to violence what the environment they lived in had taught them?
A case of bad parenting
And if we think about it, who would have formed the mindset that made the child utter “my father is a policeman” as if it were a get-out-of-jail or VIP card in a board game? Children, still in their formative years, learn most from what they see adults do. The culture of impunity may be the main parenting influence this child had and frankly, we think that this combined condonation of privilege and violence is a product of bad parenting.
“She shouts at them as if they should be afraid and lay out the red carpet for her father. Her father is a policeman but he is wrong and she should know this. Who will teach this child and undo whatever corrupted values she’s already learned?” writes feminist artist Nikki Luna in a Facebook post—and she expresses exactly what we want to say.
The child saw that violence is okay from her parent—the adult influence closest to her. Kids who grow up in hostile environments tend to mirror the actions of those who raised them. What Nuezca’s child needs more than criticism is major psychological help to show her that there’s something wrong and not normal about two people being shot dead just because of an argument that could have been settled amicably.
If we really want to change this situation, we need to see that children like her need our help, not our criticism. “Unlearning takes time, compassion and dedication, unlearning will help avoid a climate of revenge and hate for the younger generation especially those who are living with perpetrators,” writes Luna.
We need to help steer them away from bad influences and set the record straight: Violence and killing are never the answer and being a policeman doesn’t make you an exception. Instead of blaming the kid, blame this vile system that influenced her then let’s all work to change it.