How killer cop got cleared in 2 earlier homicide cases
MANILA, Philippines — The two homicide cases involving Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca stemmed from his participation in alleged shootouts in buy-bust operations in 2016 and 2018 in which three drug suspects were killed. Nuezca, who was caught on video shooting dead a woman and her son, his neighbors in Paniqui, Tarlac, on Dec. 20, is now detained at the town’s police station.
After the shooting, he was reassigned by the Philippine National Police from the Parañaque City police office, where he had been serving, to a unit charged with keeping tabs on officers with pending cases.
In an interview early this week, Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo of the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) told the Inquirer that in the 2016 and the 2018 cases, Nuezca was only a member of a police team, and his actual role in the fatal shootings was not established.
Triambulo cited records of the IAS of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) showing that in the 2016 incident, Nuezca was among 10 officers who conducted a buy-bust operation along C-5 Road extension in San Dionisio, Parañaque City.
“There were two suspects and there was a brief chase and ensuing shootout which resulted in the suspects getting killed,” he said.
Triambulo said the homicide case filed against Nuezca was dismissed because he served only as backup to the main operating team and was nowhere near the site of the shootout. In the 2018 case, Nuezca was one of three members of the local station’s drug enforcement unit who conducted a buy-bust operation against a lone suspect.
“The suspect sensed he was dealing with undercover policemen and allegedly engaged the three policemen in a shootout,” Triambulo said.
“The NCRPO-IAS was not able to determine who among the three policemen was responsible for the suspect’s death,” he added.
The administrative cases against Nuezca for grave misconduct pertaining to the two homicides were dismissed for lack of evidence on May 9, 2019, for the 2016 case, and Dec. 29, 2019, for the 2018 case.
“I actually directed the NCRPO-IAS to immediately forward to me the files on the two homicides so I could complete the case folder for Nuezca,” Triambulo said. Nuezca is facing summary dismissal for killing his neighbors Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank, 25, in a violent row over the discharge of a makeshift cannon. He also had a longstanding dispute with the Gregorios over right-of-way in their adjacent properties.
Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, the PNP spokesperson, said Nuezca was reassigned to the NCRPO’s office of the regional personnel and records management division/regional personnel holding and accounting service two days after the shooting. The unit is responsible for closely monitoring most policemen with pending administrative or criminal cases.
Usana said Nuezca started serving with the Pateros City police and later as a member of the base police at the Southern Police District (SPD) headquarters in Taguig City in 2004.
He was assigned to the NCRPO’s office of the regional support training unit before his transfer to the SPD.
Nuezca was a member of the Taguig City police from 2007 to September 2018, when he was assigned to Parañaque City. Usana said that Nuezca originally hails from Pangasinan and it is his wife who is from Paniqui, Tarlac. He pointed out that it was likely that Nuezca applied as a rookie with the NCRPO 16 or 17 years ago, which would explain his assignment to southern Metro Manila.
Anguish and sorrow
On Christmas Day, the PNP assured the Gregorio family that progress was being made in the double murder (or two counts of murder) case against Nuezca after officials obtained the raw footage of the video of the shooting, which PNP chief, Director General Debold Sinas said was vital evidence.
The video was posted on social media shortly after the killing, becoming viral and triggering widespread condemnation of police impunity. Anguish and sorrow were still weighing down on the other members of the family.
The attack has traumatized Sonya’s other children, said Mark Christian, 29, her oldest son. “I was asked to come home by my young sister. She was crying when she told me our mother and [Frank Anthony] were shot dead,” Mark Christian said. “She was up in the house and saw how our mom was killed. She still jumps up in fright every time she hears a sharp sound,” he said.
Florentino, Sonya’s husband, said their youngest child was often roused from sleep by rustling sounds in the middle of the night.
Sinas said the 12-year-old and 16-year-old witnesses who took the video had submitted their sworn affidavits.
They were allowed by their guardians to testify and would be put under the government’s witness protection program. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARIA ADELAIDA CALAYAG INQ
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