MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has watched on Monday the viral video of an off-duty policeman who shot dead at point-blank an unarmed woman and her son in Tarlac in broad daylight, which some lawmakers and social media users say was a brazen portrayal of impunity.
The video showed Sonya Gregorio, 52 hugging her 25-year-old son Frank Anthony as police Senior Master Sgt. Jonel Nuezca, 46, confronted them allegedly over the use of a homemade cannon in their hometown Paniqui, Tarlac. The officer then shot the victims in front of his young daughter.
Duterte watched the viral clip on a mobile phone ahead of the celebration of the military's 85th anniversary on Monday afternoon, as seen in photos shared by his former aide, Sen. Bong Go.
"Galit din si Pangulo sa nangyari," Go said in a text message.
(The President is also angry because of the incident.)
The Human Rights Watch said the "brazen" killing of the Gregorios "underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines" and "took place in the context of an enabling environment for police violence that President Duterte himself has encouraged."
"Sunday’s killings in Tarlac province are an inevitable result of the Philippine government’s failure to hold erring law enforcers to account," HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
Duterte had defended current PNP chief Debold Sinas after the former Metro Manila police chief drew public ire for holding a "mañanita" birthday celebration at the height of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon in May, when public gatherings were prohibited to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima also pinned the blame on Duterte's alleged support for the killing of suspected criminals.
"Dahil sa mga berdugong pahayag at paghimok ni Duterte na pumatay, kahit sa pinakamaliit na dahilan, pumapatay na ang mga pulis!" De Lima, a staunch critic of the President, said in a statement.
(Because of Duterte's killer-like pronouncements and his encouragement for police to kill, authorities are now killing people for the pettiest reasons.)
"Lalong lumakas ang loob ng mga mamamatay-tao at mga abusado sa kapangyarihan. Baril na ang namamagitan sa sibilyan at pulis, hindi na batas at proseso ng law enforcement," she said.
(Killers and those who abuse their power are empowered. Guns, and not the rule of law and the process of law enforcement are what stand between civilians and the police.)
Earlier this year, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1842, which seeks to criminalize extra judicial killings, but the measure has yet to be tackled in plenary.
The Tarlac twin murders were "not service-related" and would be treated as "ordinary murder cases", Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said earlier Monday.
"Iimbestigahan, kakasuhan, lilitisin at parurusahan po natin ang pulis na iyan -- no ifs, no buts. Magkakaroon po ng katarungan dahil nakita naman po natin ang ebidensya ng pangyayari. Hindi po iyan poprotektahan ng Presidente," Roque told reporters.
(We will investigate, file charges, try and punish that policeman -- no ifs, not buts. There will be justice because we saw evidence of what happened. The President will not protect that.)
The President has repeatedly told troops to use violence only when their lives are in danger, Roque said.
"Hindi po kinukunsinti ng Presidente ang mga gawaing mali," he added.
(The President does not condone wrong acts.)
- with reports from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News