The murders of a woman and her son at their home in Paniqui town, Tarlac province have lit up an online petition demanding the death penalty for the policeman who was caught on video shooting the two victims, Senior Msgt Jonel Nuezca.
The petition, on Change.org, may have found a supporter in Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, an advocate of reviving capital punishment.
“If you ask me, the punishment for that suspect should be cremation, not hanging. You know how cremation is. He should be burned alive,” Alvarez said in a phone interview.
Pressed to clarify, Alvarez said: “I think the suspect should be punished by sending him straight to cremation. Cremate him immediately. Look at what he did to the victims. The mother is pitiful, she even embraced her son to protect him. And yet he shot them both, just like that.”
He refused to watch the viral video of the confrontation between Nuezca and Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio, which ended up in the policeman shooting mother and son at close range.
“It is too much. It is unthinkable that an agent of the law will do that,” Alvarez said.
A certain Jamie Lynn Espinueva started a petition on Change.org entitled “Capital punishment for Jonel Nuezca.” It has 1,817 signatures as of Tuesday (Dec. 22).
On Monday (Dec. 21), Sen. Bong Revilla called for the revival of capital punishment for heinous crimes, calling the Gregorio murders a “compelling case for the reinstitution of the death penalty.”
Social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, also went abuzz with calls to restore the death penalty for Nuezca and other proposals to jail him for life.
During the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the bill reinstating the death penalty on third and final reading. It was dead on arrival at the Senate.
At least 12 measures seeking to revive capital punishment have been filed in the 18th Congress in 2019. These are pending at the House justice committee.
Asked if he would support the clamor to reimpose the death penalty, Alvarez, a firm proponent of capital punishment, said the question should be asked the Senate instead.
“That is a controversial bill that we passed in the House during the 17th Congress. But nothing happened it when it was transmitted to the Senate. So maybe it’s better to ask them,” he said.
Members of the Makabayan bloc, however, reiterated its opposition to calls to reimpose the death penalty in the wake of Nuezca’s crime.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said the tragedy in Tarlac is “a compelling case not for more violence through capital punishment, but against the regime’s promotion of lawless police brutality.”
In a statement, Gaite said the murders should be used to end extrajudicial killings and not “opportunistically push the agenda of reinstituting the death penalty.”
“We don’t need harsher punishment, but the certainty of justice,” said Gaite.
“As it was revealed, Nuezca faced several cases including two homicide cases, but he was not dismissed, punished, and disarmed,” he said.
“The situation was further aggravated by the President’s several statements encouraging the police force to shoot people even those with the most benign violations,” he said.
“This impunity and disregard for the rule of law cannot be remedied by death penalty but with our return to the reign of justice,” Gaite said.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, House assistant minority leader, said “defects in our judicial and legal processes that enable impunity cannot be cured by the reimposition of the death penalty.”
“We maintain that the death penalty is never the solution to societal problems. Only ordinary citizens will end up being punished with the death penalty,” she said.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, another death penalty fan, expressed confidence that reviving capital punishment would be passed by the 18th Congress.
Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee and author of one of several bills reviving death penalty, said there should be no more obstacle to reviving capital punishment because President Rodrigo Duterte had marked it as priority legislation and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is fully supportive of putting to death those who would be convicted of rape and other heinous crimes.
In a Zoom interview, Barbers said he wanted Nuezca to meted a penalty “higher than the existing capital punishment of life imprisonment.”
“The family was a victim of this bad cop,” Barbers said. “That criminal deserves it. He should be put behind bars and justice be served,” he said.
Barbers is seeking death penalty for drug-related crimes.
In the 18th Congress, Duterte’s allies had filed several bills reviving death penalty at the Senate.
“I believe some senators filed to revive the death penalty,” said Barbers. “So hopefully we can tackle and pass this before the conclusion of the 18th Congress,” he said.
But independent lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said reviving death penalty won’t solve anything.
“The solution to rampant and senseless killings is not the reimposition of the death penalty, which is a brutal violation of the right to life, a serious transgression of human rights and a patent abandonment of our international commitments against imposing capital punishment,” said Lagman.
What is needed, he said, was “dismantling the culture of violence which no less than the Duterte administration has encouraged, tolerated and condoned.”
He reiterated a statement he made last week blaming the President’s statements encouraging and condoning killings for the culture of violence prevailing in the country.