An official from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), in the Philippines, confirmed Wednesday that former police officer Jonel Nuezca, who was convicted of killing Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony in Tarlac, has died.
BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag affirmed to reporters on Wednesday, December 1, that Nuezca died at 6:44 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30 at the national penitentiary hospital. According to Chaclag, the cause of death is still unknown.
Nuezca collapsed while walking outside their dormitory with another convict, according to Chaclag. "He was brought unconscious to the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital by his cellmates at 6:30 p.m. yesterday, November 30, 2021," Chaclag said, adding that Nuezca's remains will be autopsied.
The unexpected death of the ex-cop has split opinions from the relatives of his victims, with some suspecting a staged death.
Mark Gregorio, son of the murdered Sonya Gregorio, said in an interview that he was stunned to discover that Nuezca had died inside New Bilibid Prison, less than four months after a regional trial court judge convicted him of double murder.
"Kahit po sabihin na may picture at nabalita na sa TV, ang reaction ko po... Kahit si papa, hindi po naniniwala. Kahapon po kasi kahit sino magsabi sa amin, hindi talaga kami naniniwala," he said.
He stated that the issue has evidently divided the family, with some believing Nuezca is truly dead and others believing the death was a ruse to get him out of prison in secret.
"Hindi pa rin mag sink-in na namatay na po siya pero kung namatay, condolence po sa pamilya...Pinagpapasa Diyos lang namin lahat," he said.
“Investigation is ongoing to determine if there is foul play in the incident,” Chaclag said.
The Department of Justice, which oversees the BuCor, announced its own investigation of the event, particularly after a series of deadly riots, but no results have yet been released.
According to Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco, the DOJ has requested that BuCor provide them with a copy of the findings of their investigation.
After a heated argument over the use of "boga", a homemade bamboo cannon, Nuezca, who used to work at the Paranaque City police crime laboratory, shot to death his neighbor Sonia and Frank Anthony Gregorio on December 20, last 2020.
The incident was captured on video and quickly went viral on social media; Nuezca's daughter was also present. His daughter exclaimed, "My father is a cop," to which Sonya responded, "I don't care." Nuezca then drew his 9mm Pietro Beretta and shot the mother and son at point blank range.
The incident sparked debates about crooked cops and the Philippine National Police's failure to discipline its officers. It appears that Nuezca had previously faced charges but had remained employed.