Philippine News

Insight: Progenies of Power—What goes on in the homes of the powerful

words by Joel Pablo Salud

MANILA, PHILIPPINES– Sun was still up at Cabayaoasan, Paniqui, Tarlac sometime half-past five in the afternoon. The longer video began with 46-year-old Parañaque City Crime Lab Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, in plainclothes, entering the premises of the Gregorio family packing his service pistol.

Enraged by the firing of a PVC canon by Frank Anthony “Anton” Gregorio, presumably done in celebration of the coming holidays, the officer went straight for 25-year-old Frank, who was a neighbor, and moved to “arrest” him.

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The young man’s mother, 52-year-old Sonya Rufino Gregorio, came to her son’s rescue by wrapping her arms and self ‘round the young man. At the point where the police officer and the mother wrangled for custody of Anton, screams from the Gregorio family were heard.

Thank heavens for cooler heads, someone in the throng suggested that they wait for the barangay officials to arrive and settle the quarrel. All along, the officer had the young man in his grip even as the mother refused to let her son go. The screaming and mayhem in the backdrop only intensified what was already an extremely volatile situation. Both families were recording the incident via their camera phones.

The conversation between the young Anton, the mother and the officer shed some light as to why the altercation started in the first place. Suffice it for this piece that a long- standing feud between neighbors on the issue of “right of way” had been brewing for some time.

Apparently, both families have been at each other’s throats due to this row.

Sometime near the end of the video, the situation seemed to have simmered down. Until a young girl made her approach, phone camera in hand, and started berating the elderly mother. Only later did people find out that she was the daughter of the police officer. As the young girl demanded for the mother to release the son to her father, crowing that her father was a policeman, the mother, in the peak of the aggravation, yelled back the only 2NE1 lyrics that seemed to translate her message , “I don’t care! Eh. eh. eh. eh”

It was downhill from there.

The officer lifted his 9mm service pistol and shot the mother’s head at pointblank range. As she fell, the officer landed the next shot on the head of the son, Frank, shooting him again as his body hit the ground. The cop pumped another bullet in the mother as she lay dead on the pavement. The murder was done with such cold, calculated ease that netizens assumed this wasn’t the first time the policeman had gunned down a victim. Both father and daughter hardly flinched. Witnesses later said that they both strolled casually away from the crime scene like nothing had happened.

‘Round a quarter past six in the evening, Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca surrendered to the police. What we saw here was a confrontation between power and powerlessness, between pistol and empty hands. Between an officer of the law who strutted around with the full backing of the State, regardless of crimes perpetrated in the name of the badge, and a young man whose only misstep was that he was perhaps too drunk to make real sense of what was happening.

But then there was the 52-year-old mother who couldn’t let go of her son, and the police officer’s daughter who couldn’t let go of her conceit, being the child of privilege and power.

Volatile, yes; utterly pointless, even more. If the cop had lived by his training and not by his weapon—certainly not by the promise of impunity by no less their commander-in-chief himself—the incident would not have ended as tragically as it did.

Murder, it seems, has become a defense-turned-offense mechanism among our officers in the Philippine National Police (PNP). Later investigations showed that the police officer, after having been charged with double murder, has homicide cases in his list of priors: both in May and December 2019. Both dismissed for “lack of evidence”.

In 2014, Nuezca refused to have himself tested for illegal drugs, which earned him a 31- day suspension. How and why this Master Sergeant, too trigger-happy to be called a professional police officer, literally got away with killing people, is anybody’s guess.

Yet, the real tragedy here is how the young daughter’s actions is reflective how she was raised.

She was captured in one of the videos pulling the hair of an elderly woman during the altercation.

That image, and the latter altercation with the mother, raise a lot of questions, like how the young girl spent her growing up years, or worse, what she had been witnessing inside her home. Was the father violent within their four walls?

And there’s the other misfortune of having witnessed a microcosm of what has been happening all over the country since the current administration’s term in 2016—a herd of “blind children” to their Stately father figure, cheering on the deaths of tens of thousands in the bogus drug war.

What we saw in the father-child symbiosis is but symptomatic of this larger malady.

The daughter, however, being a child, should not be condemned. While her actions may have been deemed by many as directly responsible for the seemingly murders of the Gregorios, she may well have been the victim of bad parenting, or worse, a home too steeped in hostility, aggression and cruelty, let alone arrogance, that there is simply no way of escaping it. We’ll probably never know.

The instant gratification perpetuated by the sense of power is a disease that leaves no one unstained by its grip. All across several administrations, we’ve witnessed how some children of power have forged for themselves their own twisted sense of entitlement, which, in more cases than they would like to admit, had left a trail of bedlam in its wake.

“My father is a policeman!” is a smug, condescending line, hurled by the young girl on the soon-to-be victims of murder. This will forever be etched in our collective memory as a failure of the whole village to raise this particular child.

The silence of the powerful in this regard has bartered the future of their children in ways that make me wonder: what goes on in the homes of the rich and the powerful that even children would not be safe from the infectious anarchy of unchecked power?

Is there something we, as a village, can do about this? If only to save them?


About the author

Joel Pablo Salud is the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction.

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