The chilling display of domination, the abuse and the misuse of power, and the ease with which Police Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca took the lives of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank in front of video cameras and many witnesses, including his daughter, is stunning. This contrasts with renewed calls by politicians for death penalty in the same, tired, strong-armed foolishness that set the stage for these gruesome murders in the first place. Viciousness begets more violence, brutality, and hostility. Death penalty does not deter crime. There is no basis for a renewed call to reinstate the death penalty; in fact, this is glaring example that governance is moving in the wrong direction.
The brutal murder of the Gregorios, shocking as it is, is a symptom of deeper cultural rot caused by impunity. With the war on drugs that lauded police and so-called ‘vigilantes’ for the deaths of thousands of poor in brutal extra-judicial killings, they have not only poured unspeakable suffering upon orphans, widows, and loved ones left behind, they have fueled an expectation and perception of entitlement to use brute violence within police and other state forces. The government remains unrepentant and continues to insist that police operations have been conducted under a presumption of regularity. The police barker that this is an isolated incident, but police killings are frighteningly voluminous and common. Red-tagging, harassment, and killings of activists, human rights defenders, and journalists also lay bare that the military hold similar expectations of impunity. High-level officials, including President Duterte, only mock the processes of the International Criminal Court, which move closer to indictments for crimes against humanity.
We have a problem with accountability. Perpetrators of both crimes and human rights violations must be held accountable. Still, death penalty is not the answer. The macho grandstanding of those calling for death penalty is just one more evidence that something is terribly wrong in our society. Rather than engaging a sober discourse on seeking accountability and addressing the problems within governance, we seem to have become a people who verbally and physically bash one another. Have we embraced a warped satisfaction in killings as a false fix for the incompetence of the government to deliver accountability through the courts as well as basic services to the people? We must hold perpetrators of extra-judicial killings and murders accountable; however, judicial killings are not necessary — death penalty should be off the table.
Our country needs a social justice system that upholds the welfare of the people , and takes greater consideration for restorative justice. We demand respectable, honourable, and accountable military and police forces, who do not abuse power or weaponize the law in a spirit of arrogance or domination. If the police want to be respected, they should be respectful of the rights of the people and not abuse their authority. The past record of Police Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezcano shows that there should be no tolerance for police abuse. Accountability for his crimes is in order since this is an open and shut case.
This is also a clarion call for authorities to end the culture of impunity and correct abuses of power by police and other men in uniform. Best modeled by promoting accountability and the value of life, politicians and state officials should focus on corrective actions that don’t require killing anyone.
One Faith , One Nation , One Voice:
Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, D.D., Archdiocese of Manila
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI)
Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, Provincial Superior, De La Salle Brothers in East Asia
Dr. Marita Wasan, Diocese of Antipolo
Sr. Ma. Lisa Ruedas, DC, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)
Sr. Rowena Pineda, MMS, Sisters’ Association in Mindanano (SAMIN)
Fr. Noel E. Bordador, The Episcopal Church (TEC)