With all due respect…

The Tarlac killings

To me, there is something utterly disturbing when people demand unconditional respect. More so when it’s a precondition for respect. All the more when those drooling for it, obese with power as they are, use it to get away with murder.

The etymology of the word itself should tell us why. The Old Latin’s respicere re, meaning ‘back,’ and specere ‘look at’ — forms the past participle of the noun denoting a feeling of courteous consideration based on the person’s worth or past achievements.

We know this by ‘looking back’ at what the person has accomplished for himself or herself based on previous decisions and actions. And by worth, I believe it means character or some special feature worthy of esteem.

To treat someone with preferential regard or reverence based on the ‘outward circumstances of a person’ came much later, sometime 17th century. These ‘outward circumstances’ can mean a badge of authority, a position in the halls of power, standing in society, with the expectation that such a person dispenses his or her authority and influence in accordance with the requirements of duty and not the other way around.

The etymology is clear: respect is earned, never to be given freely, unconditionally to anyone whose past — and present — when subjected to the most intense and fair scrutiny, leaves much to be desired. Regardless of financial and authoritative status, in spite of achievements if the same were won by unscrupulous means, respect must be withheld until one is deemed fit for consideration.

Thus, my conclusion: Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, gunning down a defenseless mother and son in broad daylight, doesn’t deserve a sliver of respect. Not one iota of it.

And this goes for all members of the police force whose deliberate neglect of duty has led to a bloody string of chaos, abuses and murder in its wake. Lump all those in the force who refuse to rock the boat, remaining silent, thereby guilty of complicity.

Nuezca’s rap sheet showed why: prior to the incident with the Gregorios, he’s been charged with homicide twice, in May and December 2019, both bowdlerized “due to lack of evidence”. He was likewise charged with misconduct after he refused to be tested for illegal drugs, which earned him a 31-day suspension.

To respect a police officer with priors that would force a hardened criminal to cringe in his boots is an effort in stupidity.

Nuezca’s surrender minutes after the double murder wasn’t a sign of remorse. It was an ingenious plan to save himself from a manhunt, of which the Rodrigo Duterte administration is only too willing to stage now that the International Criminal Court has found probable cause to charge him with crimes against humanity.

Duterte cannot afford another scandal involving his policemen, who’ve played, for the last four years, the part of his private army of hoodlums and assassins.

We all know how the President has encouraged a culture of impunity where his cops go scot-free despite their abuse of authority. How the Philippine National Police can redeem itself from the trail of murder and abuses in the last four years is anybody’s guess. ‘Does it even want to redeem itself?’ is a question we must all ask.

And for good reason: because from the looks of it, no amount of change in the administration’s leadership in the near future will stop our police force from doing what it knows best: kill. Unless… unless we deal with this now, swiftly and empty of indifference, by meting the necessary punishment on the heads of those guilty of excesses.

Police badges, their uniforms, the authority vested on them by the people have lost their former glint, if at all they had it in the first place. The Country’s Finest have all but disengaged themselves from the idea that they are no better than the criminals and terrorists they purport to hate.

The whole institution has fallen into a dark hole too deep to be saved. What previously may have been a matter of pride for children seeking a career in the force has turned into a matter of conceit. Seasoned cops doing nothing about it has assured the institution’s downfall.

The events of the last few days have nothing which deserve respect. What they deserve is continuing rage from a people who have long been victimized by power in extremis, exacerbated by a President who encouraged it all.

The fact that several police officers have made their statements in connection with the double murder, siding with Nuezca, tells me that this country is slowly being turned into a mound of excrement less likely to be of any use even to our gardens, if we don’t act quickly.

Respect. These officers don’t deserve it any more than they deserve to be called guardians of the law. There’s no telling them apart from the regular felon.

It’s time for ‘good’ cops, if at all there are any, to speak out.




Joel Pablo Salud is the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction. His opinions in Medium.com are his own.

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Joel Pablo Salud

Joel Pablo Salud

Joel Pablo Salud is the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction. His opinions in Medium.com are his own.

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