Cop in Tarlac shooting pleads not guilty to murder charges

By: Maria Adelaida Calayag - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 11,2021 - 07:12 AM

TARLAC CITY—The policeman who shot dead a woman and her son in Paniqui town, Tarlac province, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges filed against him, a police official said on Sunday.

Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca pleaded “not guity” when arraigned on Jan. 7 at the Paniqui Regional Trial Court Branch 67, according to Police Lt. Col. Soledad Elifanio, public information officer of Central Luzon police.

Nuezca is accused of two counts of murder in connection with the death of his neighbors, Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son Frank Anthony, 25. The victims were shot at close range by Nueza on Dec. 20 last year following an argument.

Lawyer Freddie Villamor, counsel for the Gregorios, said Nuezca made the plea “as advised by his counsel.”

“He (Nuezca) didn’t admit to committing the charges against him so we have to prove it [in court],” Villamor told the Inquirer by phone on Sunday.

He said Nuezca was represented by a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) during the arraignment.

“Nuezca was told by his counsel to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea while lawyers from the PAO and the fiscal further study the case,” Villamor said.

7 witnesses

Sonya’s husband, Florentino, would be the private prosecutor’s first witness “to prove [Nuezca’s] civil liability,” Villamor said. Florentino and another witness will be presented during the next hearing set for Feb. 4.

Mark Christian, Sonya’s eldest son, said seven witnesses would testify against Nuezca.

The shooting was caught on video that had gone viral on social media. It was reportedly triggered by an old feud between the neighbors over properties and right-of-way.
Nuezca had surrendered to policemen in Rosales town, Pangasinan province, hours after the crime and confessed to the killing.

On Dec. 24, Nuezca told Police Brig. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, the regional police chief, that he was “sorry” for his crime. “I admit my mistake. I was carried away by my strong emotions. I regret it so much,” he told De Leon in a closed-door meeting.

The confession was recorded on video on instructions from Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas.

Sinas said the PNP would expedite the dismissal of Nuezca from police service. —WITH A REPORT FROM TONETTE OREJAS INQ

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