MANILA, Philippines – The military top brass takes no issue with the Philippine National Police (PNP) despite the fatal shooting of retired soldier Winston Ragos by a policeman, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo on Thursday, April 23.
"AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr calls for sobriety. Let us not exacerbate the situation," Arevalo said in a statement.
The military leadership agrees with the PNP's view that the shooting was the police officer's own judgment call, and "as to whether he made the right judgment and whether his actions are appropriate are his alone, and does not reflect the PNP as an organization."
"At this time when both the AFP and the PNP are working closely against this threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would not want this incident to cause animosity between the two organizations," Arevalo added.
Earlier on Thursday, the Philippine Army, the AFP's largest branch of service, ordered an investigation into Ragos' killing. The probe will be done "in coordination with the PNP," said Army spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala.
PNP directorial staff chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar said Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr merely acted in self defense when he shot Ragos during an altercation on Tuesday, April 21.
Florendo and several other police officers accosted Ragos on Tuesday afternoon for allegedly violating the rules of the coronavirus lockdown by loitering outdoors, along Maligaya Drive in Barangay Pasong Putik, Quezon City. (READ: Winston Ragos' mom to Duterte gov’t: Coronavirus is the enemy, not my son)
With his back to Florendo, Ragos raised his arms in surrender when the cop confronted him, but he would not follow Florendo's order to drop to the ground. After several minutes, Ragos turned to face Florendo, and when the ex-soldier appeared to reach into his sling bag, the cop shot him twice. Ragos died in a hospital hours later.
Ragos, a retired Army corporal, had been discharged from the service with full pension and benefits in January 2017 after 6 years of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. (READ: Who is Winston Ragos, the former military man killed by police?)
Arevalo said Ragos may have acquired the condition in 2010, when his Army detachment in the Bicol region came under heavy attack and were "nearly subdued."
Ragos' neighbors who were at the scene of the crime had insisted to the police that he was mentally infirm, to no avail.
Police later said they found a caliber 38 revolver in Ragos' sling bag.
"We were assured of a thorough and impartial investigation by [Interior] Secretary Eduardo Año and the PNP leadership under Police General Archie Gamboa no less," Arevalo said.
"Suffice it to say that there is going to be an investigation, and appropriate criminal and administrative charges will be filed, and penalties will be meted as may be warranted," he added.
The PNP is the lead force in enforcing the government's lockdown or enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other parts of the country battling the novel coronavirus. The AFP is in a "support role" to the police in guarding checkpoints and maintaining order.
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.