A Parañaque police officer was found guilty of two counts of murder for fatally shooting his unarmed neighbors following a heated dispute in Paniqui, Tarlac in December 2020.
Judge Stela Marie Gandia-Asuncion of the Tarlac Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 106 handed down an 18-page decision on Thursday, sentenced dismissed 46-year-old M/Sgt. Jonel Nuezca to two reclusion perpetua (20 years and 1 day to 40 years) for killing 52-year-old Sonia Gregorio and her 25-year-old son, Frank Anthony, five days before Christmas.
Nuezca, who was off duty at the time, confronted the Gregorios about their usage of a “boga,” a kerosene-fueled handmade cannon.
The footage was captured on a mobile phone by a granddaughter of the elder Gregorio from the beginning of the argument until Nuezca pulled out his handgun and killed the two.
The Tarlac RTC also ordered Nuezca to pay P476,000 in damages to each of the victim’s heirs.
“(A) shoot first, think later disposition occupies no decent place in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of human life,” the court decision read.
“The attack made by the accused is so swift and sudden that the victims were not able to defend themselves. The shots fired were made in quick succession. Hence, the attack made is treacherous. The attack came unexpected at a time where the accused is holding the shorts of the victim Frank Anthony and while victim Sonia is embracing Frank Anthony. The victims are unsuspecting and never knew during the span of commotion and altercation that the accused has a gun,” the court ruled.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra praised the judge for his swift decision.
“We commend the prosecution and the honorable judge for the speedy disposition of this case. It shows that if we all put our hearts into it, we can really make the administration of justice a little more efficient,” Guevarra said in a statement sent to reporters.
Nuezca’s case, like that of another discharged cop, Hensie Zinampan, who killed his neighbor in Quezon City on May 31, will serve as a lesson and reminder that police officers are protectors, not tormentors, according to PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.
“Justice is finally served with the conviction of former police sergeant Jonel Nuezca,” Eleazar said in a statement. “It showed that justice was served and we do not tolerate such acts.”
Zinampan, who was reportedly inebriated when he shot and killed 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez, is already on trial.
The legislation does not exempt anyone, regardless of status, according to Brig. General Valeriano De Leon, Director of Police Regional Office 3.
“This development goes to show there is equal justice for everyone and that the PNP does not condone any infraction or wrongdoing committed by its members,” he said in a statement.