(Updated Jan. 15, 2021) The dismissal of now-former Police Senior Master Sergeant Joel Nuezca from being a uniformed officer of law renewed Filipinos’ cry for justice for the two civilians he killed at point-blank range during a heated argument last December.
The former Parañaque cop was announced dismissed from service on Monday. He was also administratively charged with two counts of grave misconduct and two counts of conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to reports.
Nuezca, apart from losing his privileges and benefits as a police officer, is also barred from holding any government posts.
Videos of him confronting his unarmed neighbors in Paniqui, Tarlac, 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her son, 25-year-old Frank Anthony Gregorio circulated on social media a few weeks ago.
The altercation involved the victims’ use of “boga” or an improvised noisemaker used in holiday seasons in the country.
Nuezca, who was in plainclothes at that time, shot the two neighbors in broad daylight and in front of a crowd of witnesses, including his daughter. Nuezca’s daughter was heard intervening and saying her father is a policeman.
A witness said that both of them walked away “like it was nothing” after the killings occurred.
The issue renewed calls to end police brutality as Filipinos wondered how many deaths perpetuated by the authorities have supposedly taken place before without being caught on camera.
Days before being dismissed from service, Nuezca pleaded “not guilty” during his arraignment at the Paniqui, Tarlac Regional Trial Court Branch 106 despite the graphic video.
‘Ba’t ngayon lang?’
Meanwhile, news of Nuezca’s dismissal did not satisfy some Filipinos. They lamented the “slow” response of the Philippine National Police since the dismissal came three weeks later.
“What’s next? Ambagal niyo PNP ha. Ang lakas ng ebidensiya, ang bagal niyo pa rin. Huwag patulog tulog sa pancitan! Kilos! #Hustisya #JusticeforSonyaGregorio #KillerCop,” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.
“They took so much time to realize that?? Wtfff,” another online user commented.
“Ba’t ngayon lang? Tagal,” likewise questioned a different Filipino in response to Nuezca’s dismissal.
“Dismissal sa service does not mean na ok na!! Well in fact, dapat matagal na siyang na-dismiss, sa dami niyang ginawang katarantaduhan…” another Twitter user said, referencing Nuezca’s previous cases.
The former police officer was reported to have a history of grave misconduct and had face two homicide cases in recent years, according to ABS-CBN News.
He was first suspended for ten days in February 2010 for undisclosed reasons.
In 2013, Nuezca faced an administrative case for grave misconduct but the case was “dropped and closed.”
He was once again suspended in December 2015 for 31 days due to his refusal “to [undergo a] drug test and leaving the testing area without permission/clearance.”
In 2016, Nuezca was charged for “serious neglect of duty” for failing to “attend [a] court hearing as prosecution witness of a drug case.”
Three years after, he was charged with grave misconduct for homicide in separate months but both cases were dismissed due to “lack of substantial evidence.”
Nuezca’s next court hearing is scheduled February 4.
Rep. Frederick Siao (Iligan City), vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, warned government prosecutors of the possible insanity defense from Nuezca’s camp following the latter’s “not guilty” plea in the Gregorio cases.
Article 12.1 of the Revised Penal Code states that “an imbecile or an insane person” can be exempted from criminal liability if proven in court.
“Nuezca’s lawyers will try to put forward the insanity defense. They will try to convince the public that Nuezca ‘lost his mind,’ had a ‘psychotic episode,’ or ‘nagdilim ang paningin’ moments before he shot in the head and instantly killed Sonya Gregorio and Frank Gregorio,” he said in a statement.
“The viral video of the murder is clear and plain to see. All the necessary elements of the crime of murder are there. In my view, Nuezca and his lawyers will fail at their insanity defense,” Siao added.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who admitted to being appalled at the video, last month claimed that Nuezca is suffering from a mental illness.