'Prejudgment, differing testimonies': 'Self-defense' remark over Ragos slay worries Philippine Army

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 27 2020 09:16 AM | Updated as of Apr 27 2020 09:57 AM

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MANILA - The Philippine Army said Monday it was "worried" over a Philippine National Police official's remarks that the killing of a former soldier at a Quezon City quarantine checkpoint was done in "self-defense" and a "judgment call."

The judge advocate general or the lawyer of the Army found prejudgment and differing testimonies from the policemen and witnesses in the area over the killing of ex-soldier, Cpl. Winston Ragos, by Police Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo Jnr last week. 

This prompted the Army to coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the shooting, according to its spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

"The pronouncement that worried us were that announcements were being made that it was self-defense, that it was a judgment call, wherein we were hoping that would be answered during the trial itself so that investigators will be impartial," he told ANC.

"The testimonies were different between the witness and the police. The statements given, there was an image of prejudgment. The videos shown are different from the testimonies and all that... The final arbitrar of this is the courts. What we want is to find out the truth. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty," he added. 

A video clip that circulated on social media showed Florendo with his firearm pointed at Ragos, ordering the latter to drop to the ground several times. Several witnesses were heard on the background telling the cops not to shoot the man who was seen unarmed.

Police said a caliber .38 gun was found in Ragos' bag but a witness said the ex-soldier, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was unarmed during the incident.

Zagala said he believes the "situation can still be remedied by having an impartial investigation."

"I’d like to emphasize that this incident, although very tragic, has got nothing to do with the mission of both the PNP and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) working together," he said.

"We are partners in bringing peace and security and we continue our law enforcement operations with them. This is another matter and should not affect the relationship we have."

Ragos was given military honors before he was laid to rest Sunday at the Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig, Zagala said.

"If you're a member or a former member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines it is your privilege to be buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani," he said.

"We gave him departure honors, grave site honors, gun salute and taps and the presentation of the Philippine flag to his family for his selfless service. It is given to all members of the Armed Forces who honorably served."

WHO WAS CPL. WINSTON RAGOS?

Ragos entered the military service in 2010 and served in the 9th Infantry Division in Bicol region, Zagala said. 

The former soldier was part of the 31st Infantry Battalion which was "almost overrun" by communist rebels in a series of encounters that year, which may have caused Ragos' PTSD, he added.

"Nag-iba 'yung actuations niya. Often, based on the report, he had blank stares, auditory signals coming from him. That paved the way by around November that he would be confined to the V Luna Medical Center for PTSD," Zagala said.

Ragos recovered and and was reassigned to the 65th Infantry Batallion in Lanao del Sur in 2014, according to the Army spokesman. His sickness, however, eventually returned.

"He had to be confined again and take medicines. He was no longer given any combat duty. He was placed in headquarters and service company. He was given lighter duties not involving combat," Zagala said.

Ragos was given a complete disability discharge in January 2017 contrary to reports that he had served in the Marawi siege in March of the same year, Zagala added.

The Army aims to track and help former and active soldiers suffering from PTSD, according to its spokesman.

"We wish to help them because at the end of the day they are former soldiers, they contracted their illness because of the service. It’s only fitting we help them, so we can help prevent another incident like what happened to Cpl. Ragos," he said.

"This is a sickness that has been overlooked through the years. The scars you have are not seen and you're suffering continuously and we in the Philippine Army want to help."