Dura lex, sed lex. The law is harsh, but it is the law.

Among all the legal maxims, this is among the most popular. It is a simple statement, but it captures sharply with precision what should be the nature of the law and how it should work. But does the statement really mean anything nowadays, or has it been stripped of meaning and reduced into a vacuous expression?

Last December, video footage of mother and son Sonya and Frank Gregorio shot point-blank in front of their home in Tarlac by an off-duty police officer, Joel Nuezca, went viral on social media. They were killed by a policeman whose arrogance made him think he could get away with murder just because he has a badge. Nuezca still pleaded not guilty to his double-murder charge on Jan. 7, and was only dismissed from the force on Jan. 11—22 days after the twin killings. Looking at Nuezca’s history—with two previous cases of homicide and multiple administrative cases due to “neglect of duty,” all of which were dropped and dismissed for lack of evidence—it is clear as day that the culture of impunity is alive and well in the ranks of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Corporal Winston Ragos, an ex-soldier, was murdered in broad daylight by police Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo Jr. for allegedly threatening cops after an altercation on Covid-19 protocols.

Multiple witnesses stated that Ragos was not at all armed; police told them to go home. Statements released by the police soon after would completely differ from what would eventually be seen from the CCTV footage of the crime.

The Quezon City Police Department, while confirming that they would hold an investigation, said that what Florendo did was “a judgment call.” It took months before the National Bureau of Investigation concluded that Florendo, along with four other police trainees, were to be charged with murder and planting of evidence in the crime scene. 

It’s true: the law is the law. The law of the land applies to all and there should be no exceptions. Rules and regulations are set to maintain order, justice, and equality in society. But what can we do when those tasked to enforce the law, the land’s “peacekeepers” themselves are disregarding it?

This is the sad reality of this country—the system is unfair and those in uniforms are helping foster the culture of impunity. The over-abused power dynamics are exercised over and over again by people in position, trampling upon common Filipinos’ rights and taking their lives.

Empty promises of internal cleansing have been sworn to the public by police chiefs since way back when, but time and time again the abuses by the cops seem to be getting worse. Even with evidence publicized, these power-trippers show no remorse and no guilt. Even PNP Chief Debold Sinas had the gall to discourage civilians from recording police forces who abuse their positions, claiming it could be dangerous.

In the case of the recently controversial death of flight attendant Christine Dacera, Sinas was encouraging a disregard of proper procedures and called for the turnover of the suspects without a warrant—even declaring the case closed without sufficient evidence.

This, along with many other blunders, makes one think about who the force is really protecting. The PNP’s motto is “to serve and protect,” but it seems as if they are only protecting themselves and their culture of impunity? It gets clearer day after day that Filipinos are playing a losing game.

A leadership overhaul in the PNP is long overdue. Filipinos do not have to die at the hands of their “protectors.” It would help a lot, too, if we do not have a madman as a president who orders his boys to shoot anyone dead as he pleases.


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