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A history of violence: Images of abuse by persons in authority that sparked outrage

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Dec 21, 2020 10:27 am

Warning: graphic images and descriptions of violence

An unarmed mother and her son in Paniqui, Tarlac were killed in their own backyard, in broad daylight and in front of a minor by an off-duty policeman. The incident was captured on video.

Suspect Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, who shot Sonya and Frank Gregorio pointblank over an argument with the victims’ use of a noisemaker, surrendered to the police an hour after the incident. He now faces double murder charges.

The video of the incident made rounds on social media and sparked public outrage. Many outrightly condemned the act and wondered how many more of these brazen killings by police officers could happen.

Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca moments before he murdered Sonya and Frank Gregorio.

Philippine National Police Chief Debold Sinas noted in a press conference that it was good that Nuezca’s actions were caught on video, but the police chief discouraged the public from taking videos or photos of crime incidents as they themselves might get entangled in a dangerous situation.

Kian delos Santos
Last September, 2,600 body cameras arrived in the country for the Philippine National Police. In 2018, then PNP chief Bato dela Rosa rolled out a memorandum that police involved in anti-drug operations would wear body cameras once the devices have arrived.

This move was prompted by the case of Kian delos Santos, who was murdered by three policemen while in an anti-drug and anti-crime operation called “Oplan Galugad” in Caloocan City.

The policemen, who were found guilty of killing Delos Santos, claimed that the 17-year-old student was a drug runner and drew a gun at them, which made them shoot at him in self-defense. But witnesses, who said Delos Santos begged for his life before he was shot, and the neighborhood CCTV footage belied the claims of the police.

Delos Santos’ death became a call for many not to allow victims of the government’s drug war to be forgotten. 

Pre-smartphone era
Police brutality and abuse of power among the ranks of the police have existed long before the smartphone era.

In the Philippines, photos and videos of violent dispersals of protesters during the First Quarter Storm have also been captured by photojournalists. These footages show members of the police hitting protesters with truncheons, most of them students who were left injured and some of them dead.

During the Vietnam war, photojournalist Eddie Adams also captured a powerful and now iconic image of a South Vietnamese general firing a pistol at the temple of a handcuffed prisoner, who is a Viet Cong officer. The photograph called “Saigon Execution” has become a symbol of the excesses of the war and has been considered as an anti-war icon.

George Floyd case
Today, the ubiquity of smartphones has allowed individuals to document almost everything.

Like what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May, where he was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 at a store. He was handcuffed face down on the street as a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds until Floyd breathed his last.

A police officer pressed his knee on George Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds until Floyd breathed his last. A bystander captured the incident using her smartphone.

Several bystanders captured the incident on video using their smartphones, which told a different story from what the involved police’s sanitized report said.

The videos that circulated on the news and social media prompted a series of protests around the United States and across the globe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which heightened racial and political tension even more. The protests have also magnified the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to defund the police echoed throughout the country.

Winston Ragos case
In April, retired AFP soldier Corporal Winston Ragos, who was held by the police for allegedly violating quarantine protocols, was shot dead by Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr. at checkpoint in Quezon City.

CCTV footage show Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr. pointing his gun at a retired AFP soldier Corporal Winston Ragos.

Seen in the CCTV footage of the incident that went viral online were neighbors trying to tell the police that Ragos was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after his deployment in Marawi City. It was when Ragos reached inside his bag that Florendo shot him twice. Florendo was later on charged with homicide.

An incident that also made rounds on the internet, which even reached global news outfits, was a 2010 leaked cellphone video of a police official in Manila questioning a naked robbery suspect while pulling on a string tied to the man’s genitals. The man was on the floor and was shouting in pain. The man being tortured in the video has reportedly died in the hands of the police.

“Each and every police is expected to protect our rights. As such, it is unacceptable when they are the ones being at the forefront of perpetuating such human rrights violations,” the Commission on Human Rights said in a statement following Nuezca’s killing of the Gregorios.

The CHR also called for the government to conduct widespread investigations on every allegation of arbitrary killing.