By JHIO JAN NAVARRO
The footage of Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca firing point-blank at civilian mother and son, Sonya Gregorio and Frank Anthony Gregorio has been circulating in social media. The brutal act of murder on December 20, 2020 at Paniqui, Tarlac, as an addition to the long catalogue of abuse perpetrated by state forces since Duterte assumed power, has garnered the ire of netizens, activists or otherwise.
It has been reported that the murders were preceded by a confrontation rooted from the Gregorios shooting an improvised canon or “boga,” traditionally used to make noise to welcome the new year. The noise was said to have prompted Nuezca to investigate. The investigation, however, quickly escalated into a commotion when the dispute over the right of way between Gregorios and the Nuezcas where brought up. In the video, it could be seen that the mother is hugging her son as if restraining him and the police officer was beside them, hand in his shirt. Everything was tensed but relatively non-violent until the daughter of Nuezca enters the frame, shouted and was answered rather teasingly by Sonya. At which point, the cop addressed the latter saying, “Putang ina mo gusto mo tapusin kita ngayon ah?” before pulling the trigger on both mother and son.
That the explicitly murderous rhetoric of, and the culture of impunity bred by Duterte has enabled this atrocity, is a glaring fact of our current life. From injunctions like “… kaunting pagkakamali lang barilin mo na,” to promises that no policemen would ever go to jail, everything that Duterte has been saying and doing has provided the very conditions for these atrocities to emerge and fester.
I however contend that the power dynamics where the above mentioned murder is implicated/imbedded needs to be interrogated. And I think of this by giving due attention to the verbal exchange that transpired between the daughter of Nuezca, and the mother, Sonya, before she and her son were gunned down mercilessly and without remorse.
In what appears to be the ultimate determining moment of the tragedy, the daughter of the cop shouted:” My father is a policeman!” To which the Sonya Gregorio, son in her arms, in a sing-song, responded: “I don’t care.” Ultimately, the exclamation of the cop’s daughter implies and reflects the dominant lietmotif, nay, the myth that surrounds the cop as incontestable authority — [the Self] that personifies power as a “policeman,” while the mother and son were the “othered” victims.
On the other hand, as with thinker Foucault’s claim that where power is, resistance is likewise located, the verbal act of the mother was subversive. It is a demythologization as it bares the fact-of-the-matter that the status of being a policeman is no high pedestal where others are to pay obeisance or homage. Whatever halo of prestige or reverence that surrounds the policeman is nothing but only accepted as myth, or otherwise the tiresome belief that policemen are heroes with moral and legal ascendancy. And, this myth was eroded by the mother’s voice of teasing denial, “I don’t care”.
That the mother Gregorio was gunned by the cop for resistance reflects the lengths the agents of the state are willing to go to sustain the dominant narrative and the oppressive status quo. The act of demythologizing the state forces as an entity righteously demanding non-negotiable subservience poses a threat to the ego of the state’s agents so great that it necessitates the ultimate suppression, killing. Thus, this incident explains the widespread crackdown on activists, the intolerance of dissidents and the equally rampant repression of the critical press. Apparently, these subversions are threat to the myth sustaining the power and prestige of the state and its agent to the effect that the latter loosens its grip of the society and inches close to the precipice of reckoning. The reckoning that would culminate to a shattered status quo and by extension, the downfall of its perpetrators and accomplices — a grim prospect that will be reminiscent of Moussolini’s fate at Piazalle Loreto or at least of Marcos fleeing to Hawaii and falling, with his cronies, to the depth of ignominy.
“I don’t care” may have been Gregorio’s consummatum est. Yet as final words of defiance it will, for certain, live on to subvert all of the “my father is a policeman” words of arrogance and its various contortions spewed by those who still breath to speak and speaks as accomplices of murderers. And perhaps it will live on to usher in the era of public demythologization and subversion of the oppresive state and its forces.