FATAL COMBINATION: A trigger-happy police force that believes in fake information
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is in hot water yet again just two days before 2017 comes to an end. The latest controversy centers on ten police officers from Mandaluyong City who engaged in a so-called “misencounter” that happened midnight of December 29 at Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City. This led to the death of two innocent people.
According to a report by international photojournalist Ezra Acayan, the police mistakenly opened fire at a vehicle that was transporting to a nearby hospital a woman who got shot by still-unknown attackers earlier that night. The police officers opened fire at the vehicle after barangay tanods claimed that it was the getaway vehicle of the woman’s assailants.
“Investigators say the police officers opened fire more than 40 times at the vehicle carrying the seven unarmed civilians. One of the men inside the vehicle even had to play dead so that the police would stop shooting,” Acayan added in his narrative. Most of the victims were construction workers.
By Friday afternoon, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head Oscar Albayalde announced that the police chief of Mandaluyong City as well as the ten police officers involved in the fatal operation will be temporarily relieved of their duties pending the results of the investigation. They were identified as:
Senior Inspector Maria Cristina Vasquez
Police Office 1 Alfred Uribe
Police Office 2 Nel Lemuel Songalia
PO1 Jave Arellano
PO1 Tito Danao
PO1 Mark Castillo
PO1 Julius Libuen
PO1 Bryan Nicolas
PO1 Albert Buwag
PO1 Kim Rufford Tibunsay
Of course, it will take time before an honest-to-goodness investigation can really ferret out the truth behind this tragedy. Nevertheless, there are some obvious mistakes that we can see already based on news reports.
1) Why were the barangay tanods of Barangay Addition Hills armed in the first place? This is a question that even Mandaluong Mayor Carmelita Abalos doesn’t know the answer to. Maybe it’s because President Rodrigo Duterte himself reiterated last year that he wants tanods to be armed?
2) The police officers are obviously trigger-happy. The number of bullet holes sustained by the vehicle reflect this. According to Rule 7.5 of the PNP Operations Manual, “only such necessary and reasonable force should be applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the offender.”
More importantly, Rule 8.2 stressed that “a moving vehicle shall not be fired upon except when its
occupants pose imminent danger of causing death or injury to the police officer or any other person and if the use of firearm does not create a danger to the public and outweighs the likely benefits of its non-use.” Looked at this angle, it seems that facts do not add up in favor of Mandaluyong City Police and the barangay tanods, although their superiors can always skew facts. The PNP Operations Manual can be downloaded here.
3) They did not verify the information they received from the tanods. I guess this it what happens when you have a government that lies and willingly spreads misinformation as long as it shapes their preferred version of events. Oh, and we must not forget PNP Caloocan insinuating that murdered teenager Kian Delos Santos has links to drug syndicates based on social media posts!
PS: The US-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has declared President Rodrigo Duterte as its “Person of the Year” this 2017. The title is being given to “the individual who has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption.” In a scathing piece, the OCCRP pointed out that under Duterte, “the Philippines (has become) more corrupt, more cruel, and less democratic.”