QC cop who killed ex-soldier 'followed instruction' — PNP chief

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
QC cop who killed ex-soldier 'followed instruction' � PNP chief
A relative lights a candle on Thursday midnight where retired Cpl. Winston Ragos was shot after a short stand off with police manning a checkpoint at Barangay Pasong Putik in Quezon City. Police MSgt. Daniel Florendo Jr., the police who shot Ragos, is now facing a criminal and administrative probe over the incident.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the national police defended Thursday the actions of a Quezon City cop involved in the killing of a former soldier on Tuesday afternoon, saying he was simply complying with instructions. 

Despite the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) saying that the officer in question was facing criminal and administrative charges, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa insisted that the cop was under threat by the suspect, 34-year-old army veteran Winston Ragos, and was prompted to shoot him twice.

Speaking in an interview with ANC Thursday morning, the police chief said, "When you are confronted with a person armed with a pistol, it's equivalent is also a pistol."

READ: Quezon City cop shoots 'mentally challenged' quarantine violator

"When we are confronted with an armed aggressor or a suspect—because a lot of police men have already died—actually my instruction is really don't let the other person go first," he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Videos of the incident which have since circulated on social media showed that Ragos was fired at twice—with his back already turned and shoulders slumped by the time the second shot was fired. 

Police officers present at the scene can also be heard saying they did not care whether he was armed or not. One cop can audibly be heard saying, "Sige, iputok mo (Go ahead, shoot)."

At the same time, Ragos' relatives can be heard pleading with officers. 

PNP operational procedures, which are public documents available on their website for anyone to access, prohibit the use of excessive force, but holds that "in the lawful performance of duty, a police officer may use necessary force to accomplish his mandated tasks of enforcing the law and maintaining peace and order."

READ: PNP: We'll go 'straight to arrests' in 'martial law-type' quarantine

"The decision is really up to the person. It would have been better if we did not have an experience where we're confronted with an armed [suspect] tapos palagi kaming nanalo...there are a lot of circumstances where if you didn't go first, you'll really lose your life," Gamboa added.


In his statement, Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo, QCPD Director, tagged the shooting as a "judgment call," while PNP spokesperson Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac asserted that "the suspect really had a gun in his bag. And our police are strictly enforcing quarantine." 

"When a suspect does not follow a command like 'put your hands up', then he has the intention to fight back or may be armed. He is challenging the police," Banac said in Filipino in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.

Even before the enhanced community quarantine, the narrative that policemen whose lives were put in jeopardy acted in self-defense and shoot suspects to death was oft-repeated amid the Duterte administration's 'war on drugs' which rights groups say has claimed over 27,000 lives, some of them women and children. 

READ: Philippine Army probes police shooting of ex-soldier Ragos

Sen. Risa Hontiveros and former senator Antonio Trillanes have spoken out against the killing, pointing out that the man was mentally ill and was helpless at the time that he was killed.

The police manual also directs police officers to "first issue a verbal warning before he could use force against an offender" but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable "where threat to life or property is already imminent" and police officers have no choice but to use force. 

It also holds that "the reasonableness of the force employed will depend upon the number of aggressors, nature and characteristic of the weapon used, physical condition, size and other circumstances to include the place and occasion of the assault."

Videos of the incident show nearby residents trying to stop the police from shooting the man, while one can even be heard screaming, “Bakit niyo binaril, sir? Dapat kinapkapan niyo muna!” (Why did you shoot him, sir? You should have frisked him first!)

'No one is safe'

Rights groups hold that the Duterte administration's response pushes for a needlessly militaristic enforcement of quarantine measures amid a pandemic that necessitates medical and healthcare solutions. 

President Duterte himself has ordered the military and the police to shoot anyone who would continue to hold protests that disrupt peace and order. "Shoot them dead," he said in a public address. 

The PNP later assured the public that they would not actually shoot people dead. 

In a statement issued Thursday morning, rights group Karapatan cast fear that the killing was an example of how the president's rhetoric could embolden the military and the police to kill citizens. 

READ: 'War' narrative in COVID-19 crisis fails to empower Filipinos, groups say

"We strongly remind the Duterte government that militarist threats and policies do nothing to curb the onslaught of the pandemic. Exploiting emergency measures to unleash State violence and terror upon the people will only worsen the crisis we are already facing," their statement read. 

"Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic — and to effectively combat this pandemic, the government needs to implement the needed public health measures, to address the people’s legitimate demands especially the poor and marginalized, and to uphold people’s rights, welfare, and dignity."

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