Debold and a beast

National Police Chief Debold Sinas got some flak for saying the public would be advised not to take videos or photos when witnessing a crime because it is “very tricky.” Coming from the head of the law enforcement institution who was caught on camera violating strict quarantine protocols, which he was expected to implement, such a statement wasn’t surprising at all.

It is disgusting, however, for him to say that Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, who was caught on video, killing in cold blood his neighbors Sonya Rufino Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank Anthony, 25, in Paniqui, Tarlac on December 20, showed character when he surrendered at the Rosales police station in Pangasinan – character of an abusive police officer, perhaps.

Sinas said Nuezca, who appeared like a wild beast while confronting his neighbors and later pumping bullets into their heads over “boga,” surrendered out of remorse. In Sinas’ words, “Sising-sisi siya sa nangyari!”

Rosales, Pangasinan is about 35 to 40 kilometers away from Barangay Cabayaoasan in Paniqui, Tarlac where the crime happened. Why did Nuezca choose to go that far instead of driving straight to the nearest police station if he was truly sorry for what he had done? Did he attempt to escape but couldn’t think of a place to hide?

While President Rodrigo Duterte wanted Nuezca locked up in jail, he described the police officer as “may sakit sa utak … topak (with a mental condition … crazy).” Some took the remark to mean that the chief executive could be laying the ground for an insanity defense.

Duterte himself wondered how a police officer such as Nuezca passed the neuro test. Applicants to the police force go through a neuro-psychiatric examination that tests their mental stability, adaptability and psychological functioning. Each applicant has to pass the test before he or she is recruited into the service.

How Nuezca managed to get away with his previous criminal and administrative records, including a homicide filed in December 2019, is more puzzling. It may not be far-fetched to think that those infractions were dismissed or dropped for lack of evidence because those were not recorded on camera, and potential witnesses were terrified to testify.

The character he showed while confronting the Gregorios was typical of abusive lawmen, who want to control and rule by fear. That he had to shoot the unarmed mother and son point-blank and pump yet another bullet into the mother’s head after she had fallen was too gross to watch. That his 13-year-old daughter was just a few feet away from him and was seen recording and actively jumping into the fray showed an abnormal situation that was as shocking as the speed by which the policeman pulled the trigger.

Now that Nuezca has been locked up in jail, would it be possible for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to reopen his previous criminal and administrative cases and find out how he managed to have those dismissed or dropped? But then, even if that is possible, it is doubtful if they would do so because it would show a rotten system where legal maneuvers could clear even guilty suspects who use money and influential patrons to get off the hook.

The Nuezca double murder case presents an opportunity to Sinas and the police leadership to be bold in applying the laws strictly and equally, weeding out the misfits in uniform in order that they can be true to their motto “to serve and protect” the people and not their personal interests.

Sinas was correct in saying that taking photos or videos during the commission of a crime is risky as it may put the life of the one taking the photo or video in danger, but it was taken in a different light in view of his violation of the quarantine protocols, which became viral on social media. Even then, he got away with it because Duterte had said he had forgiven him and even promoted him to the top position of the PNP.

Other crime incidents caught on video resulted in the conviction of law enforcers such as the Aug. 16, 2017 murder of Kian Delos Santos, who was shot dead during an Oplan Galugad operation in Caloocan City.

Closed circuit television (CCTV) footage belied policemen’s claims that the 17-year-old Delos Santos had shot at them and resisted arrest. An eyewitness also said Delos Santos was pleading with the officers to stop beating him and that he had exams the next day.

In reference to the killing of the Gregorios, Sinas said if people wanted to take photos or videos of a crime or any incident, they have to be as far as possible from the scene. Some of my friends on social media cracked that it would leave more room for tampering. Either that is true or it is not easy to believe Sinas anymore.

Let’s just hope and pray that justice would be served on the Gregorios and that Sinas would be true to his word that he would never condone any criminal act of police officers, particularly the case involving Nuezca.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.


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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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