MANILA (UPDATE) — Malacanang said on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte will not protect the policeman who shot dead an unarmed woman and her son during an argument in Tarlac on Sunday, an incident that sparked widespread calls for an end to alleged police brutality.
Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, 46, shot Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank, 25, after a verbal tussle allegedly over the victims' use of a homemade cannon in their hometown Paniqui.
This incident was "not service-related," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Kinokondena po natin iyang nangyari d'yan sa Tarlac... Ang pulis na iyan ay hindi puwedeng mag-invoke ng kahit anong depensa na may kinalaman sa kaniyang tungkulin ang pagpatay na iyan," Roque said in an online briefing.
(We are condemning what happened there in Tarlac. That policeman cannot invoke any defense that the killing is linked to his official duty.)
The killings will be treated as "ordinary murder cases," Roque told reporters.
"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," he said.
(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, said his spokesman.
"Hindi po kinukunsinti ng Presidente ang mga gawaing mali," said Roque.
(The President does not condone wrong acts.)
Video courtesy of PTV
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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.
The hashtags #StopTheKillingsPH, #EndPoliceBrutality and #OUSTDUTERTENOW trended on Twittter over the incident on Monday morning.
"Iyong Oust Duterte naman po, alam natin kung sinong nasa likod n'yan--iyong mga gahaman sa kapangyarihan at hindi makahintay sa 2022," Roque said of the third hashtag.
(The Oust Duterte, we know who is behind that--those who are greedy and cannot wait for 2022.)
Asked if the President would rescind his order for policemen to bring service firearms off-duty, Roque said, "Hindi po (no)."
"Isang bugok lang po iyang pulis na 'yan. Hindi naman po lahat ng pulis ay gaya niya. Siyempre po, ang baril ay para sa proteksyon ng ating mga kapulisan, hindi po iyan para gamitin sa kanilang mga personal na kaaway," Duterte's spokesman said.
(That policeman is just one rotten egg. Not all policemen are like him. Of course, the gun is for the protection of our police, that is not for their personal enemies.)
"Policy cannot be formulated on the basis of aberrations," he added.