EDITORIAL - Police violence

EDITORIAL - Police violence

(The Philippine Star) - December 24, 2020 - 12:00am

Jonel Nuezca, the police master sergeant who shot a 52-year-old woman and her son point-blank during an argument in Tarlac, cannot cop an insanity plea in the double murder case, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., who is a lawyer.

President Duterte himself has indicated that while Nuezca is “crazy” or “ulol,” the policeman must be held accountable for the cold-blooded twin murders that have shocked the world, and should even be fed the COVID virus.

Still, Nuezca’s murderous rage indicates a psychological problem that may not be all that uncommon among law enforcers, and deserves certain interventions. As comments from Capt. Ariel Buraga, the sacked police chief of Bato town in Catanduanes indicated, some cops seem to believe Nuezca’s victims, Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony, had it coming for showing “disrespect” toward a police officer.

How can anyone respect a cop like Nuezca? He went berserk after Sonya Gregorio, responding to Nuezca’s 10-year-old daughter shouting, “My father is a policeman!” sang the catchy line from South Korean girl band 2NE1’s popular tune, “I don’t care, eh eh eh eh eh!”

Nuezca could face life in prison for the twin murders. But other members of the Philippine National Police who might be suffering from psychological distress can still be saved from doing something they will regret for the rest of their life. Saving such PNP members will also keep the public safe from abuse of authority and violence.

There is already a law promoting mental health. Those tasked to deal with the public regularly in potentially highly stressful conditions, including health workers, soldiers and police, should be provided mental health services, including de-stressing and anger management programs.

At the same time, authorities must see to it that Nuezca faces the full force of the law for his heinous crime, for which he has so far not shown any heartfelt remorse. In media interviews, getting him to publicly express regret over his deed has been like pulling a decayed tooth, as a Filipino saying goes.

President Duterte, who is being blamed by critics for encouraging police violence in his brutal war on drugs, has warned that for cops like Nuezca, “there will be hell to pay.” The nation expects no less. Failure to impose punishment will breed impunity, and make cops believe that if they feel they have been disrespected, it’s OK to shoot two persons dead.

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