MANILA — A video of a police officer shooting a woman and her adult son at close range on Sunday has spread rapidly across social media in the Philippines, provoking a wave of outrage directed at the government and a police force that many say acts with impunity.
Officials said the shooting was the result of a dispute between the officer, Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca, and his neighbors, Sonya Gregorio, 52, and her son, Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, in the northern province of Tarlac.
In the video, Mr. Nuezca, off duty and in civilian clothes, can be seen confronting the Gregorios about their use of a boga, a homemade noisemaker constructed from PVC piping that is traditionally played at Christmastime. But tensions quickly escalated into a fight that included Mr. Nuezca’s daughter.
After a heated exchange of words between the daughter and Ms. Gregorio, the policeman is heard in the video telling Ms. Gregorio and her son: “I will finish you now.” The officer is then seen raising his handgun and shooting Mr. Gregorio and his mother each in the head at point-blank range.
The video quickly circulated on messaging apps, social media and in the local news media, and prompted two hashtags on Twitter, #StopTheKillingPH and #PulisAngTerorista, or “the police are terrorists.”
The shootings are the latest in a series of killings involving the Philippines National Police, which is currently the focus of an international investigation. The International Criminal Court said last week it believed that there was evidence to support claims that the authorities had committed crimes against humanity as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs in the Philippines.
Edre Olalia, who heads the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which tracks the killings, blamed Mr. Duterte’s government for the gruesome incident.
“When those who swear to execute the laws, goad and inspire law enforcers with guarantees of impunity and even a pat on the back, you create monsters in our midst ready to go berserk anytime, anywhere for a variety of reasons and circumstances,” he said.
Mr. Duterte has often encouraged the police to kill criminals and has promised to protect them as long as he remains in office. “Be alert and be wise,” he told officers this month. “You know, just a little mistake on their part, shoot them,” he said, referring to possible suspects.
Human rights activists said that Sunday’s shootings were the result of the president’s violent rhetoric and his vocal support for the police and promises of protection.
“Many members of the Philippine police are simply out of control,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“As with many incidents of recent police violence, the killing by Nuezca of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank was brazen and underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines,” he said. “It took place in the context of an enabling environment for police violence that President Duterte himself has encouraged.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año condemned the killings and stressed that they were isolated incidents that should not reflect on the Philippine National Police.
“While there are unfortunate incidents like this, the vast majority of our P.N.P. personnel perform their sworn duties everyday with honor and integrity to protect and serve the people,” he said in a statement. “The sin of Nuezca is not the sin of the entire Philippine National Police.”
Mr. Nuezca surrendered to the police late Sunday and has been taken into custody. An investigation was underway.
In a late-night briefing on Monday, Mr. Duterte said the police officer should remain in jail and called him “sick in the head,” adding that he had only promised to protect police officers who acted in accordance with the law.
“You do it right, I am with you,” Mr. Duterte said. “You do it wrong, and there will be hell to pay.”
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