Fire truck sirens wail in protest at slain volunteer’s funeral
Their sirens wailed, not to signal an emergency, but to express their rage and anguish.
Some 40 fire trucks paraded through Manila and Makati City on Saturday morning, one of them bedecked with flowers and doubling as a hearse for the volunteer firefighter whom peers said was mistaken for a robber when police shot him dead two weeks ago.
About a hundred of his colleagues turned up for the burial of Ronald Infante, a businessman who was also acting chief of the Manila-Setba (Severino, Tayabas, Batangas) Fire Volunteer Brigade.
Then travelling together on a motorcycle, Infante and mechanic Jenny Almanon were killed in what the Makati police called a shoot-out on the night of April 1.
The funeral-turned-protest march took place after a group of fire volunteers outraged by Infante’s death practically laid siege on the Makati police’s central station on Ayala Avenue on Maundy Thursday, training their hoses on the building and damaging a patrol car.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay later ordered the filing of charges against the volunteers, who arrived at the station in 20 fire trucks and were reportedly led by Marcing Sananela.
‘Gun owner, but not robber’
Colleagues at Saturday’s convoy insisted that the 32-year-old Infante, a gun owner, was neither a criminal nor a trigger-happy person. They called on the Philippine National Police to clear his name and hold those responsible for his death accountable.
“Their (police) claim is impossible. Ronald is a businessman. He would not rob anybody,” said Joey Maigue, 51, a member of Mata ng Caloocan Fire and Rescue Volunteer Brigade.
“Even if someone carries a gun, it does not automatically mean he is a robber. The policemen should have simply accosted Ronald and his companion and asked them about the incident and why they carried guns,” Maigue added. “They shot Ronald just because he had a gun.”
“We provide service without getting paid. We risk our lives to help without any compensation because we are just volunteers. Fire volunteers are not robbers,” he stressed.
At the Manila-Setba headquarters on Severino Reyes Street in Sta. Cruz, the mourners paid tribute to Infante by giving him a “water salute,” training their firetruck hoses in the air.
After a Mass at Espiritu Santo Parish on Tayuman Street, Infante’s coffin was paraded in a convoy that passed through several streets, including Lacuna in Barangay Bangkal, Makati, where Infante and Almanon were killed, before going to Manila North Cemetery for the burial.
According to police, Infante and Almanon formed a motorcycle-riding tandem who allegedly tried to hijack an LBC courier service van driven by Strauss Enriquez.
A team from the Makati police responded to a distress call coming from residents in the area who purportedly saw the attempted robbery. The policemen said they caught up with the two and engaged them a shoot-out, killing them both and recovering two pistols—a Glock .40 and a 9 mm—from the suspects.