CHR renews call for probe into arbitrary killings after cop shoots 2 in Tarlac
Screengrab from Google Maps shows Brgy. Cabayaoasan in Paniqui, Tarlac
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CHR renews call for probe into arbitrary killings after cop shoots 2 in Tarlac

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - December 21, 2020 - 12:13pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:54 p.m.) — The killing of an unarmed mother and her son in Tarlac province by a police officer supposed to serve and protect the public is unacceptable, the Commission on Human Rights said Monday as it called for a probe into arbitrary executions. 

In a statement, the CHR strongly condemned the “brazen and senseless” killing of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank by Police SMSgt. Jonel Nuezca on Sunday in Paniqui, Tarlac.

“While investigations continue to ascertain the reason for the altercation, no one deserves to be deprived of their life at a whim,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said.

The shooting, caught on videos that have gone viral on social media, showed Nuezca, an off-duty police officer from Parañaque, shooting Sonya, 54, and Frank, 25, at close range.

“The government cannot claim adherence to human rights principles and allow impunity to worsen by not making sure perpetrators are held to account. We are interested in knowing the truth behind these deaths because there is a demand for justice,” De Guia said.

Social media users on Monday called for the end of police brutality and impunity in the Philippines, using hashtags #StopTheKillingsPH and #JusticeForSonyaGregorio.

De Guia stressed that promises made by the government to improve the protection and promotion of human rights in the country must translate into improvements of the situation on the ground.

“We have seen deaths after deaths. How much more until the killings stop?” the CHR official said.

“The government, after all, holds the primary obligation to protect and promote our rights, most especially our right to life. We should never take human rights violations lightly and continue to demand justice and accountability,” she added.

CHR: Police expected to 'serve and protect'

Although conflict between the parties is rooted in a property right-of-way, the shooting stemmed from the use of a “boga”—an improvised noisemaker made from a PVC pipe —allegedly by the Gregorios, Police Lt. Col. Noriel Rombaoa said in an interview on GMA News.

“The police officer is expected to be disciplined, discerning, and professional. The PNP ought to live by their motto of ‘To Serve and Protect.’ Each and every police is expected to protect our rights,” De Guia said.

“As such, it is unacceptable when they are the ones being at the forefront of perpetuating such human rights violations,” she added.

The commission said its regional office will investigate the incident as it urged the public to avoid vilifying Nuezca’s daughter, who was also in the video, as it may inflict “irreparable trauma” on the child.

Failure to hold erring cops accountable

Watchdog Human Rights Watch said the killing of the mother and her son underscores the culture of impunity that prevails in the Philippines. 

“[This] is just the latest incident to drive home this reality: many members of the Philippine policy are simply out of control,” Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director, said. 

Robertson pointed out the killing took place in the context of an “enabling environment for police violence that President Duterte himself has encouraged.” 

The United Nations human rights office, in its report released in June, said the government’s “heavy-handed” focus on eliminating illegal drugs and security threats, coupled with verbal encouragement from top officials, has resulted in serious human rights violations. 

Many times in the past, Duterte has excused wrongdoings of uniformed officials and vowed to let them off the hook. 

“Sunday’s killings in Tarlac province are an inevitable result of the Philippine government’s failure to hold erring law enforcers to account,” Robertson said.

'Deaths after deaths'

The killing of the Gregorios is not an “isolated incident,” contrary to the statement of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año. It is the latest in the string of incidents of police brutality and abuse in the country.

In April, Police MSgt Daniel Florendo Jr. and other police companions shot former Army soldier Winston Ragos in at a checkpoint in Quezon City for allegedly violating quarantine protocols. The National Bureau of Investigation filed charges of murder, perjury and planting of evidence against the cops.

The police force is also facing scrutiny for the country’s brutal anti-drug campaign that has led to killings of thousands of alleged drug personalities.

The national human rights institution is renewing its call to the government to conduct investigations on every allegation of arbitrary killing following the fatal shooting incident.

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