Ex-cop faces less serious charge over road rage
MANILA, Philippines — Three weeks after he was captured on video hitting a biker on the head and cocking a gun, dismissed police officer Wilfredo “Willie” Gonzales was finally charged on Tuesday in connection with the road rage incident on Aug. 8.
But policemen from the Quezon City Police District’s (QCPD) Galas station filed a complaint for the lesser offense of alarm and scandal which would mean jail time of up to 30 days or a fine not exceeding P40,000 should Gonzales be convicted.
QCPD chief Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III, in a radio interview, said that without a complainant, the suspect could not be charged with attempted homicide and grave threats.
“We are asking the help of the public to come out to strengthen the cases that will pile up against Gonzales. We urge the victim and his lawyer, as well as the cycling community who are all crying for justice, to help us,” he added.
Torre said they started investigating the case on Sunday, right after he held a press briefing side by side with Gonzales at the QCPD headquarters in Camp Karingal, leading to the filing of the complaint in the Quezon City prosecutor’s office on Tuesday since Monday, Aug. 28, was a holiday.
The Philippine National Police, however, would also be looking into possible negligence on the part of the Galas policemen who handled the case.
“We could have revoked the firearms license of Gonzales earlier if this case was reported by the police station to the [PNP Firearms and Explosives Office] despite the amicable settlement,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a separate interview.
“He should not own a gun because he is a repeat offender, a recidivist,” she stressed.
As a member of the QCPD, Gonzales was demoted several times and left the service in 2016 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56. The next year, the PNP ordered his dismissal over a grave misconduct administrative case based on a gun-toting incident in 2006. His dismissal took effect in 2018 after his motion for reconsideration was denied, leading to the forfeiture of his benefits retroactively.
Lawyer and cycling advocate Raymond Fortun, who earlier announced his intention to take up the case of the cyclist whom he identified only as “AB,” said the latter was “wholehearted in not pursuing charges against Gonzales” due to supposed “threats” coming from the PNP, including Torre and a police major.
Fortun claimed he had a copy of Torre’s text telling the cyclist “not to interfere,” adding that some QCPD personnel also reportedly threatened and forced the vlogger who had uploaded the road rage video to take it down after it went viral on Sunday.
“I am still hopeful [in] the next coming days that other people involved and other people from the government will support this cyclist,” he said.
On Monday, the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) revoked Gonzales’ firearms license and registration and permit to carry outside of residence. It also seized his three .45-caliber handguns and 9-millimeter pistol.
His driver’s license was likewise suspended for 90 days by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) which has set an inquiry on Aug. 31 to allow him to explain why his license should not be permanently revoked.
In a statement on Tuesday, the LTO said that Gonzales would be asked to explain why he should not be held liable for at least four offenses. These were disregarding a traffic sign (under Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01), obstruction of traffic, reckless driving, and improper person to operate a vehicle, all under Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.
Based on its records, the LTO earlier said that Gonzales was not the registered owner of the red sedan that he was shown driving in the video.
Following the incident, some lawmakers have called for a review of Republic Act No. 10591 or the 2013 Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, with Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urging Congress to “act to prevent irresponsible gun owners from using their firearms illegally on defenseless civilians.”
“I will be filing a bill amending RA 10591 to make it stricter, especially on requirements pertaining to neuro or psychiatric examinations to determine one’s mental or psychological fitness to own a firearm,” Rodriguez said in a message to the Inquirer on Tuesday.
House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Erwin Tulfo agreed with Rodriguez on the need to review the law.
“The focus is not only on stricter requirements. If gun owners or gun holders have current cases of brandishing their guns, or violations of the FEO’s policies, then the gun owner should be stripped of his firearm license and permit to carry firearms, and his firearms confiscated,” Tulfo said.
Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene Brosas, meanwhile, criticized the QCPD for “apparently coddling” Gonzales and holding a press conference for him.
“This incident once again highlights the deep-seated culture of impunity that allows perpetrators, especially those with connections to the police force, to evade accountability,” she said. “No one should be above the law, and all individuals, regardless of their connections or former positions, must be held accountable for their actions.”
For his part, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada called for a Senate inquiry into the road rage incident as he also took issue with the press briefing that “looked like it was sponsored and backed up” by Gonzales’ former colleagues.
“We must not accept this culture of impunity to continue especially on our public roads. Clearly, Mr. Gonzales is a danger to the cycling, commuting or riding public,” Estrada said.