The head of the Philippine Military Ordinariate called for immediate action on the killing of a mother and son in the northern province of Tarlac on Sunday, Dec. 20.
The incident must be investigated with “fairness and justice,” said Bishop Oscar Florencio, adding that the killing of Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son, Frank, 25, was “uncalled for.”
The suspect, who was later identified as police master sergeant Jonel Nuezca, shot and killed the Gregorios over the firing of a “Christmas cannon,” locally called “boga,” a holiday noisemaker.
Initial police investigation, however, said the parties were earlier involved in a property “right-of-way dispute.”
“The grim news today … is just the latest incident to drive home this reality: many members of the Philippine police are simply out of control,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
Robertson said the killing was a result of “continuous impunity” as an “inevitable result of the Philippine government’s failure to hold erring law enforcers to account.”
The Commission on Human Rights also called on the government to conduct widespread investigations on allegations of arbitrary killing.
The human rights body vowed to conduct an independent probe through its regional office.
Rights group Karapatan said the incident was “a dangerous and chilling effect of impunity that reigns in the Philippines.”
The group said the killing is not an isolated incident, “especially when governance and culture is being driven by President Rodrigo Duterte’s rabid kill-kill-kill policy.”
Since 2016, when Duterte came to power, human rights groups said there was a surge of extra-judicial killings in the country. In the government’s “war on drugs” alone, at least 6,000 people have reportedly killed by authorities.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año denounced the incident but insisted it was “an unfortunate but isolated incident.”
“The sin of Nuezca is not the sin of the entire Philippine National Police,” he said in a statement.
In a statement, the presidential palace said the president will not condone the incident because of the strong evidence caught on video.
“That policeman cannot invoke any defense related to his job,” said government spokesman Harry Roque.
“This will be treated, tried, investigated like an ordinary murder case. No ifs, no buts. Justice will be served because we saw the evidence,” he said.
Nuezca has surrendered to the police an hour after the incident. Records show he had faced six cases in the past 10 years for “grave misconduct, serious neglect of duty, refusal to undergo a drug test, an administrative case, and face suspension from the service.
The two homicide cases he was accused of in 2019 were dismissed due to “lack of substantial evidence.”