Cops ‘didn’t listen,’ kill 2 on wrong info
Responding policemen acting on supposedly “false information” on Thursday night killed two people, including a woman being rushed to the hospital for a gunshot wound, after mistaking them for gunmen in Mandaluyong City.
The shooting left two other people wounded in what the chief of the Metro Manila police said was an incident that betrayed lapses in police operational procedures and rules of engagement.
The incident occurred when village watchmen called 10 policemen from Mandaluyong’s Police Community Precinct (PCP)-1 to the scene at the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Old Wack Wack Road in Barangay Pleasant Hills, following an earlier shooting over a mere parking dispute.
When the officers arrived, two of the watchmen were already firing at a Mitsubishi Adventure with seven people on board.
The police mistakenly opened fire on the vehicle that they thought was carrying the shooter but which in fact was taking the woman injured in the first shooting incident to the hospital. The woman was later identified as Jonalyn Ambaon.
Videos of the incident show policemen with guns drawn, surrounding the van as gunshots ring out.
Ambaon sustained several more gunshot wounds and died on the spot, along with Jomar Hayawun, a construction worker.
Hayawun’s coworkers Eliseo Aluad—Ambaon’s live-in partner—and Danilo Santiago were wounded. The van’s three other passengers—Mhury Jamon, Simeon Rimbao and Roel Distor—escaped the fusillade unharmed.
Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), on Friday said that 36 empty shells and slugs had been recovered and that all the guns of the policemen and watchmen would be subjected to ballistic tests to see who had fired at the van.
Furious that the officers shot at the victims despite “the absence of an active shooter,” Albayalde relieved the 10 officers, as well as Mandaluyong’s police chief, Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran.
Placed under restrictive custody and disarmed were PCP-1 team leader Senior Insp. Maria Christina Vasquez, PO2 Nel Lemuel Songalia and Police Officers 1 Alfred Uribe, Jave Arellano, Tito Danao, Mark Castillo, Julius Libuen, Bryan Nicolas, Albert Buwag and Kim Rufford Tibunsay.
All except Vasquez, who arrived at the site late, opened fired at the van, according to Albayalde.
He said the police officers might have been given wrong information because they were told by the village watchmen that the passengers of the vehicle were armed.
“We are not discounting the fact that there is possible overkill or violation of [police operational procedures]. But we cannot also completely blame the police because the information that was fed them was that the van [had] armed [men],” Albayalde said in Friday’s press briefing.
“While we do not [want to] judge our policemen, we also see that there were lapses. If there is no active shooter in the other party, why will you shoot? That much is clear in our [procedures],” he added.
Still, Albayalde maintained that the police might have acted on “false information” from the watchmen of Barangay Addition Hills, whom he identified as Gilberto Gulpo, Wilmer Duron and Ernesto Fajardo.
Gulpo and Fajardo were also the first to open fire on the van, according to Jamon, one of the survivors, during the press briefing.
The NCRPO chief said he did not know why the village watchmen, who usually bore truncheons, carried firearms. He said police would check records if the watchmen had licenses to carry guns.
The deadly encounter started just after 10 p.m. at the Mandaluyong City College construction site in Barangay Addition Hills, when a group of delivery boys, led by a certain Abdurakman Alfin, were told by laborers Aluad and Jeffrey Hernandez that they could not park their vehicle there.
Though the dispute was quickly settled, one of Alfin’s companions, Salam Abdul Majid, went somewhere and returned with a gun, according to a police spot report.
Witnesses said that after they heard a gunshot, Ambaon, who was visiting Aluad at the construction site, collapsed with a wound in the head.
Aluad and five other laborers boarded the Adventure van to bring Ambaon to a nearby hospital.
But responding watchmen thought that Aluad’s group was involved in the shooting and radioed the information to the police, Villaceran said.
Gulpo, Fajardo and Duron trailed the van aboard their patrol mobile and began shooting at the victims until they reached Old Wack Wack Road, according to Jamon.
“The barangay showed police the CCTV (closed-circuit television) footage where the [passengers of the] patrol car were shooting at the van. That’s why the police assumed the [passengers of the] van [were] armed,” Albayalde said.
Jamon and the other survivors got out of the van after being ordered by police. But when the policemen saw that Aluad and the wounded Ambaon were still inside, they began shooting at the van.
“We were shouting, ‘Sir, we have a patient with us.’ But the police didn’t listen and instead ordered us to lie face down on the pavement. They opened fire because they thought [Ambaon and Aluad] simply didn’t want to get off the van,” Jamon said.
Police are holding Fajardo and Duron, as well as Alfin’s companions, while Gulpo is at large, Albayalde said.
A subsequent police report said it was Alfin who sought the help of the village watchmen after the first shooting incident.
Albayalde said they would also investigate the possibility that the watchmen had deliberately tricked the police into shooting at the van. —With reports from the wires
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