MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The former policeman who killed a woman and her son in Paniqui, Tarlac last year was found guilty of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, the Philippine National Police said Thursday.
Jonel Nuezca was found guilty "beyond reasonable doubt" for 2 counts of murder over the killing of his neighbors Sonia Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony, according to Brig. Gen. Val De Leon, director of PNP-Central Luzon.
The sacked policeman was handed down a sentence of up to 40 years in jail (reclusion perpetua) for each count and ordered to pay the heirs of the victims a total of P952,560, De Leon said.
The decision was issued by Judge Stella Marie Gandia-Asuncion of Paniqui Tarlac Regional Trial Court Branch 106.
"Justice is finally served with the conviction of former police sergeant Jonel Nuezca," PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said.
Nuezca shot to death the mother and son on Dec. 20 last year in the presence of his daughter after a heated argument over the use of a homemade cannon. The incident was caught on video and went viral on social media.
In the video, Sonia could be seen wrapping her arms around her son as the row intensified before Nuezca shot her in the head and did the same to Frank. Before fleeing, Nuezca shot the mother again.
"Nauunawaan namin ang pakiramdam ng pamilya Gregorio na ang parusang iginawad ng hukuman (kay Nuezca) ay hindi sapat sa bayolenteng pagkawala ng buhay ng kanilang dalawang kaanak. Ngunit naipakita dito na umiiral ang hustisya sa ating bansa at kailanman ay hindi kinukunsinti ng inyong Philippine National Police ang mga ganitong uri ng pulis," said Eleazar.
(We sympathize with the Gregorio family who feel that the verdict of the court is not enough for the brutal murder of Sonia and Anthony. But this showed that justice in our country prevails and that the PNP does not tolerate its erring personnel.)
The attack drew widespread condemnation, with some officials calling for reforms in the PNP and netizens pleading for police to stop the killings.
The cellphone video of the killings and the testimony of the one who took it were vital in proving that Nuezca killed mother and son and that it was attended with treachery, which made it murder.
"The attack was so swift and sudden that the victims were not able to defend themselves. The shots fired were made in quick succession," Gandia-Asuncion wrote in her decision.
Nuezca, who was formerly assigned at the Parañaque police crime laboratory, was dismissed from police service earlier this year.
"This development on the case of PSsg Nuezca goes to show of equal justice to everyone and that the PNP does not condone any infraction or wrongdoing committed by any of its members. Any individual regardless of status must face the crimes they have committed, there is no exemption in enforcing the law," De Leon said of Nuezca's conviction.
The Gregorios were laid to rest at the Paniqui Garden of Angels Memorial Park on Dec. 27.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra commended the prosecution and the judge for the "speedy disposition of this case."
"It shows that if we all put our hearts into it, we can really make the administration of justice a little more efficient," he said.
In late May, another policeman also shot dead his elderly neighbor in Quezon City. It was also caught on video.
"The trial for another policeman, Hensie Zinampan, in another viral video of killing in Quezon City last June is ongoing. He too was already dismissed from the service and we are confident that justice will also be served to the family of his victim Lilybeth Valdez," Eleazar said.
"Both the cases of Nuezca and Zinampan will serve as a lesson that will constantly remind us that as police officers, we are the protectors of the Filipino people, and not their tormentors," he added.