MANILA – The Philippine Army on Thursday sought an investigation as it mourned the death of its former soldier who was gunned down by a police officer in Barangay Pasong Putik in Quezon City.
Winston Ragos was given a complete disability discharge from military service in November 2017, with pension and other assistance after being diagnosed with a mental disorder, the Army said in a statement.
Commanding general Lt. Gen. Gilber Gapay has ordered an investigation into the incident in coordination with the Philippine National Police, it added.
"To a soldier, the wounds of war are not just physical but also mental and their scars are not always seen," it said.
"The Philippine Army seeks awareness on the plight of former soldiers struggling with mental problems. Even though they are no longer soldiers, they continue fighting a silent and lifelong battle."
Ragos was shot dead Wednesday at Barangay Pasong Putik after an altercation with police at a quarantine control point.
He initially approached police trainees and was then confronted by Police Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo Jr. who shot him 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.
Eleazar, however, said the incident could be considered as "self-defense," noting that the police were informed the suspect was armed.
"Nakita mo na talagang ayaw mag-react, [ayaw] 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?" said Eleazar, who also heads the PNP's Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield.
(If you see him not reacting, not following your instructions, and then even challenging your authority, and after that tries to draw a gun, what would you do? Are you going to dodge like those in the movies? Are you going to do somersaults before you approach him?)
"It’s very easy to criticize the police pero kayo ang lumagay sa position namin. May pamilya rin tayo (We also have families)," he said.
"Di natin pinangungunahan ang imbestigasyon (We are not trying to preempt the investigation), but what I'm trying to say is given the circumstances, probably I would have done the same during the same situation," he said, noting that it was his "personal opinion."
The victim's sister and another witness said the former soldier did not have a gun.
"Ang nasaksihan ko, nakatutok na 'yung baril (nung pulis) sa tao. Sinabihan namin na wag na iputok ang baril," the witness, who spoke on the condition of anonimity, told ABS-CBN News.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, urged the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killing.
"There is NEVER an excuse for brutality and violence, especially towards persons with mental illness and the powerless," Hontiveros said in a tweet.
"COVID-19 ang kalaban natin, hindi ang kapwa nating Pilipino," she said.
(Our enemy is COVID-19, not our fellow Filipinos.)
PNP chief Dir. Archie Gamboa said Florendo has been disarmed and he and the police trainees were placed under the custody of the Metro Manila police.