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The Tarlac shooting shouldn’t be just another statistic

The Tarlac shooting shouldn’t be just another statistic

Should another killing happen in the hands of police before the government realizes how low the country has sunk? How much more can one country take, really?

These are just some of the questions that people have asked on social media in the wake of a fatal shooting on Sunday: In Paniqui, Tarlac, Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca shot dead 52-year-old Sonya Gregorio and her 25-year-old son Frank Gregorio in broad daylight after an altercation. Nuezca’s young daughter was also at the scene of the crime, and looked on while her father gunned down the two victims.

A video of the incident has made the rounds on the internet showing the involved parties in a heated confrontation, which ended on a grim note. Nuezca surrendered on the night of the incident at the Rosales Police Station in Pangasinan, but justice is still being demanded—not only for the Gregorios, but for others who’ve been struck down by police brutality.

Another case… again

What’s most jarring is that this case isn’t the first involving shootings by the police. In April 2020, another police master sergeant named Daniel Florendo Jr. shot down army veteran Winston Ragos at a quarantine checkpoint, also in broad daylight. Two months later in June 2020, nine police officers killed four intelligence agents who were pursuing a suspected suicide bomber.

Human Rights Watch’s statistics indicate that killings by police in the country have increased up to 50 percent during the pandemic. According to the group, 155 persons were killed by the police from April to July 2020, while the figures from December 2019 to March 2020 show 103 killings, also by uniformed personnel. 

The government was quick to deny this, however, saying that these were “gross distortions” based on “unqualified and unverified data.”

“We reject sweeping allegations of state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings that have resurfaced with unfounded allegations,” said a statement from the Office of the President. 

Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson asserted the data’s accuracy. “Sadly, the Presidential Communications Operations Office spin doctors are apparently more interested in scoring political points than making a factual argument,” he said

“It’s frankly absurd to disparage Human Rights Watch’s analysis while failing to provide any evidence of any factual mistake on our part.”

What the gov’t says

What we can’t deny is what the video on Sunday’s shooting has established as indisputable, just because it actually exists for us to see. Because of the video, we’ve come to know and remember that, as ordered by the President, off-duty police are allowed to carry firearms just like Nuezca did.   

The support isn’t that surprising since President Duterte had the police’s back since day one. This comes from the same commander-in-chief who once said that he’ll “take care” of uniformed personnel by “never allowing” the police, military and armed forces to get locked up in jail. The Tarlac incident also comes a few weeks after Duterte told law enforcers, “Do your duty, do it in accordance with the law. Pero be alert, be wise. Alam mo kaunting pagkamali lang, barilin mo na.”

(If they make the slightest mistake, shoot them.)

However, Malacañang’s spokesperson has clarified that the President will not “protect” Nuezca, and that his office “condemns” the fatal shooting.

How many more such defenseless killings need to happen before people demand accountability from the police and their superiors? Something’s gotta give.

But the incident also resurrected several statements from government officials that contradict Malacanang’s assurance of condemning police abuses. Remember how Police Chief General Debold Sinas said there was no need to seal cops’ guns because they’re apparently “disciplined enough”? Back in 2017, then-PNPA director and Chief Superintendent Joseph Adnol also said that police officers didn’t need body cams, saying that “God” is the only witness they needed.

That obviously won’t cut it. After seeing the footage, it makes us wonder: what about the unreported, unrecorded cases of police brutality? What’s actually happening in our streets that have not been recorded and made public? Were they passed off as another police raid, another shootout with “drug suspects,” another “buy-bust operation” gone wrong? Incidents like those are quickly swept off the headlines and trending topics, then brushed off, with the number of extrajudicial killings reduced in official government statements and passed off as “unsolved deaths.”

How many more such defenseless killings need to happen before people demand accountability from the police and their superiors? Something’s gotta give.

Read more:
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Human Rights Day 7’s arrest is the opposite of ‘prioritizing human rights’

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