Hontiveros: Cops’ use of unnecessary force can be traced to Año order | Inquirer News

Hontiveros: Cops’ use of unnecessary force can be traced to Año order

/ 05:38 AM April 24, 2020

Pointing out that the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was a health issue, Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to revise his directive to the police to arrest and jail all quarantine violators, saying it had led to the killing of a mentally unstable former soldier.

She said Año’s order had prompted some law enforcers to use unnecessary force, referring to the fatal shooting of former Army Cpl. Winston Ragos, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), near a quarantine checkpoint in Quezon City on Tuesday.

Hontiveros said Año’s order “created the environment for the totally unacceptable violence against a person who turned out have mental health issues.”

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She called on the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to immediately investigate the shooting.

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Outnumbered

Hontiveros said Ragos was believed to be carrying a firearm but was outnumbered by the officers at the scene.

She said they could have just restrained Ragos, questioned and handcuffed him “instead of being shot and eventually dying.”

Año could still temper his directive especially since the COVID-19 crisis is about public health, she said.

“I really hope that the good secretary will review and possibly revise his instructions because after all, everyone in the IATF, including the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), has spoken of this COVID pandemic primarily as a public health crisis, so it must be health that must lead in command, with law enforcement simply as an important supporting actor and not leading the way in an emergence of this kind of use of excessive force, violence and indeed death,” Hontiveros said.

The IATF-EID is the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which leads the government effort in containing COVID-19. The agencies include the DILG headed by Año.She also said the government must provide the necessary assistance and safety nets for the people adversely affected by the quarantine instead of immediately branding those who try to go out to earn a living or look for food as nuisances.

The CHR on Thursday said it was investigating the shooting. It said, however, that it was for the courts, not the police, to determine whether the killing of Ragos was justified.

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Bystanders repeatedly told the police officers who confronted Ragos not to engage him as he had “war shock.”Ragos was discharged in November 2019 after he was diagnosed with PTSD, which was likely due to his combat experience, according to his mother.

Jacqueline de Guia, the CHR spokesperson, noted that the different accounts of what transpired immediately prior to Ragos’ killing was more reason to let courts rule on the incident.

“We reiterate our call to allow the rule of law to prevail and let the scrutiny of the proper courts weigh in on the question if circumstances are justifiable to warrant the shooting which eventually resulted to death,” De Guia said.

‘Clashing narratives’

“There are different accounts of what transpired, including clashing narratives on whether the victim had a pistol in his sling bag, which the police claim as a sign of imminent danger, thus resulting in the shooting,” she said.

De Guia reminded the government that strict measures to enforce the enhanced community quarantine were meant to protect lives, not to put people in even more harm.

“It is most alarming when these measures trigger allegations of human rights violations and, worse, result in any loss of lives,” she said

De Guia reminded the PNP of its own operational procedures which prohibits the excessive use of force. The manual states that if force is merited, it should be “a necessary and reasonable force” sufficient only to overcome the resistance put up by the offender, she said.

While the CHR recognizes that law enforcement officers are important in the protection of life, liberty, property and security of persons, it said that there were also guidelines set on the use of force that law enforcers must strictly observe, De Guia said.

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“If the use of force and firearms is unavoidable, then authorities must practice restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense, mindful of minimizing damage and injury, and with respect to the preservation of human life,” she added. —WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU

TAGS: Año, Hontiveros, QC shooting, ragos

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