Child Rights Network offers its deep condolences to the Gregorio family, and calls for justice for mother and son Sonya Gregorio, 52, and Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, who were shot point-blank by Police Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, an officer from Parañaque City.

While Nuezca has surrendered to authorities, we cannot rest until a swift prosecution is done in this case.

We also call for the protection of the perpetrator’s child, who is a minor. As shown in the circulating video, the incident happened in front of this child. We urge the public to be cautious and critical in their judgment. Demanding justice for this brutal killing should not come at a child’s expense and bullying the child online will only lead to more harm and trauma. Instead of blaming the child, the incident should serve as an eye-opener to all — that children in their formative years can easily adapt to the culture and practices that their surrounding environment exhibit.

We urge the Department of Social Welfare and Development to thoroughly support this child’s psychosocial needs, as well as that of other children and individuals who witnessed the killing in broad daylight.

This incident speaks volumes of how violence and threats have become the norm in our communities. It is deeply disturbing that this police officer nonchalantly shot these civilians in front of his child. The child’s utterance — “my father is a policeman” — exhibits how the child sees a police officer not as a peacekeeping stalwart, but rather someone who can readily inflict harm or damage on anyone who gets in his or her way. It is worrying that the rampant violence has reached a point wherein even children view acts of violence as the “new normal.”

This cycle of violence has to end and it starts by recognizing that the problem is institutional. The fact that Nuezca had previous homicide charges against him should have removed him from active duty as a police officer. If checks and balances are in place in our law enforcement agencies, this incident could have had a different outcome.

CRN notes that in this Tarlac shooting incident, outrage has quickly outpoured as a video of the incident circulated online. Sadly, this was not the case in past incidents involving children. At least 122 children have been killed in the Philippines’ anti-illegal drugs campaign, according to a report published by the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (a CRN member) back in June. Of this figure, a verdict has been released on the perpetrators only in Kian delos Santos’ case, which had CCTV footage to serve as evidence.

If exhaustive evidence were also available in all the other 121 cases of child killings, justice could have been served more swiftly. In this light, we call on Congress to expedite the passage of pending measures that mandate the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers. The pending legislation should be enhanced to make it mandatory for police officers to wear their body cameras whenever they carry guns or ammunition, and not just during police operations, as incidents like the shooting in Tarlac will not fall in the ambit of the pending body camera bills if officers are only compelled to wear body cameras while on duty.

We call on law enforcement agencies to review their manual of operations, plug holes that could lead to police power abuse, and immediately purge their ranks of abusive officials and focus on increasing these institutions’ capacity to protect citizens, especially the most vulnerable. Our security forces should also be oriented on proper child rearing, where their children are not exposed to any form of violence.

Lastly, this incident is a glaring symptom of how our law enforcers have deeply internalized our government leaders’ rash view of implementing rule and order – through the brute use of force supposedly to fight criminality. May our current leaders see how their acts, utterances, and brash words effectively shape the mindset of our uniformed personnel, and, by extension, our children, who seek role models. These thinly veiled tirades must stop, command responsibility must be upheld, and the rule of law — not deadly violence — must prevail.

Immediate action from our government and our law enforcement agencies is needed and warranted, as the lives of our people — particularly children — remain in peril if this cycle of violence continues unrestrained.

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