MANILA - A policeman's killing of a former soldier in Quezon City was done in "self-defense," a police official said Thursday.
Winston Ragos, 34, was shot dead Wednesday at Barangay Pasong Putik after an altercation with police. He initially approached police trainees and was then confronted by Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr. who shot him dead as he reached for a supposed firearm inside a sling bag.
The incident is being investigated by the Quezon City Police District's crime investigation and detection unit and its internal affairs service, according to Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, head of Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield.
"Kung titingnan natin ito, this is a—well we can say self-defense. Kung ang nangyari is hinayaan niyang makabunot ito at naputukan, for sure madidisgrasya itong ating pulis," he told ANC.
"Di natin pinangungunahan ang imbestigasyon but what I'm trying to say is given the circumstances, probably I would have done the same during the same situation," adding that this was his "personal opinion."
Eleazar said the policeman warned the suspect to get down for 2 minutes before shooting him, based on a circulating video of the incident on social media.
"Nakita mo na talagang ayaw mag-react, sumunod sa sinasabi mo. And then pagharap talagang nangcha-challenge pa. And after that bubunot ng baril. Eh ikaw anong gagawin mo? Iilag ka parang sine? Tatumbling-tumbling ka bago mo i-approach?" he said.
"It’s very easy to criticize the police pero kayo ang lumagay sa position namin. May pamilya rin tayo."
Ragos was a former soldier who served during the Marawi siege and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his family. He was not carrying a firearm inside his bag, a witness said.
Eleazar, however, said a caliber 38 pistol was recovered inside the suspect's bag after the incident.
"During this constant, do you think you have to check first if indeed there’s a firearm bago ka magreact? So you know split second, it was a judgment call for the police," he said.
"Eh kung pag bunot doon at nakaputok 'yun at natamaan ang pulis natin, disgrasyang katakot-takot 'yun. It’s a judgment call. That’s why we’re conducting an investigation."
Eleazar said policemen are ready to take responsibility for their implementation of Luzon's enhanced community quarantine.
"Nagkakamatayan na tayo dahil sa virus na 'yan. You know the police are trained, ang haba ng training namin. We know our responsibility, our accountability. Haharapin natin kung magkakaso, kung makulong. Kami ang sasagot nun," he said.
"Basta for us we are doing our job, we have to implement this...
We are not tolerating anumang pagabuso ng pulis but just like anybody else, we deserve due process."
'Ex-soldier's slay in the time of lockdown'
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said Thursday it was investigating the fatal shooting of an allegedly unarmed former soldier who breached lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Pinaiimbestigahan natin iyan at dapat lumabas d'yan ang katotohanan... Nakita ko iyong video na kumakalat, marami rin akong tanong doon," said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.
(We are investigating that and the truth should come out. I saw the circulating video, I also have questions there.)
The policeman who shot Ragos has been placed under the custody of his superiors, he said.
"Kung nagkamali ang kapulisan, hindi natin kukunsintihin," he told DZMM.
(If the policeman was wrong, we will not coddle him.)
Ragos' killing came after President Rodrigo Duterte instructed the military and policemen to prepare for a martial-law style takeover of lockdown measures.
Duterte earlier warned left-leaning groups causing quarantine trouble, saying he wouldn't hesitate to order authorities to "shoot them dead."
Karapatan, in a statement, condemned the incident as an "alarming and deplorable act of State violence."
"His killing only goes to show that the president’s 'shoot them dead' orders and threats of a martial law-like takeover are not mere exaggerations—we have heard this order in the bloody drug war before," it said.
"They embolden the military and the police to kill, and the president’s orders translate to dead bodies. 'Leftist' or not, anyone—even a retired soldier—can become victims of State fascism."
Government must implement the needed public health measures and address the demands of the poor and marginalized to effectively combat the pandemic, the rights group added.
"Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic...We demand justice, and we will hold the government accountable."
The entire Luzon, home to about half of the country's population, is on lockdown until April 30 to slow the spread of COVID-19.