MANILA, Philippines — Slain mother and son Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio were laid to rest on Sunday, two days after Christmas in what should have been a happy occasion for the family that was marred by the murder of the two by a police officer.
It has been a week since SMSgt. Jonel Nuezca shot dead the two unarmed individuals in Paniqui, Tarlac after figuring in a heated argument with his neighbors.
A video of the incident went viral on social media, and the killing was met with outrage from the public which had called for reforms in the police force that has figured in series of controversies this year.
Dozens attended the burial as shown in a Facebook Live by News5, where emotions ran high as the mother and son were given final rites and the caskets carrying their bodies lowered to the ground.
"I'm not angry at the [Philippine National Police]," said Belen Gregorio, a relative of the family, in Filipino. "What I am furious about are the wrongful acts done by some from the police."
Nuezca now finds himself behind bars, having been charged by Tarlac City prosecutors with two counts of murder.
Nuezca previosuly faced administrative and criminal charges that were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Florentino Gregorio, widower of Sonya and father of Frank Anthony, told a television interview that he was concerned how Nuezca was still able to remain in the police force despite the said string of cases.
"I fear that he has faced a lot of cases but he still got out of it. All were dismissed. We only hope that he would finally be out of service," he told CNN Philippines in Filipino.
The Duterte administration and the PNP have sought to paint the murders as an isolated one, mere cases of "bad apples" despite the many documented cases of police brutality in this year alone.
Officials have also denied that erring cops had been encouraged as a result of the president's repeated backing of policemen involved in killings related to his anti-drug war.
Both have also rejected that a "culture of impunity" has prevailed in the police force, signaling that reforms which even lawmakers are calling for, are unlikely to be rolled out.
In his weekly address a day after the incident, Duterte lashed out on Nuezca and described him as mentally ill although he did not present evidence of this. He has said as well that "there will be hell to pay" for cops who go against the law.
The tone significantly differed from how he has said in the past that he has no regard for human rights, let alone telling police to shoot dead those who would violate quarantine-related curbs.
In June, a report by the United Nations Human Rights Office detailed how such rhetoric incited violence and "may have had the effect of encouraging, backing or even ordering human rights violations, with impunity."
The human rights commission has said too that changing the language being used by leaders toward the PNP could be the easiest thing to do in implementing changes.
"Utterances may be construed as an order and if it comes from the highest authority," said Commissioner Karen Dumpit. "Any word that you utter will be taken as a serious matter or by the subordinates as something that is quite serious."
In Congress, solons have filed resolutions to conduct probes to identify gaps in law enforcement with senators sounding the alarm over the series of unresolved killings in the last six months.
Such incidents continue to put a dispute on findings by US-based Gallup Inc. that the Philippines is among the safest countries in the world this 2020, which, even Duterte was surprised to find out about the results, as the country tied with other nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Poland. — with reports from News5/Justinne Punsalang
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