President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction for authorities to shoot to death people who will employ violence amid the COVID-19 crisis had nothing to do with the killing of a retired soldier believed to have mental issues, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the President’s critics were only using the incident against him.
“Wala pong relasyon ‘to sa kahit anong sinabi ng Presidente at hindi po sinabi ng pulis na siya po ay pinapatupad ang isang order ng Presidente,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
“Huwag po nating bigyan ng interpretasyon ang bagay na ito na wala naman pong basehan at all. It is speculation, it’s conjecture. It is not factual.”
But members of the House Makabayan bloc think otherwise.
In a statement on Thursday, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said the incident only showed the prevailing “kill, kill, kill” mentality of law enforcers under the Duterte administration, pointing out that it happened only days after Duterte’s “shoot them dead” directive against quarantine violators.
“This incident highlights the draconian handling of the COVID crisis and this should immediately be changed before more are killed by trigger happy state forces,” Zarate said.
For her part, Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Elago said the incident is a clear case of militarist implementation of ECQ that should not be let slide.
“We cannot just let this pass as this incident may set a precedence to all alleged ECQ Violators. If this killing will not be given justice, this will make the culture of impunity in the country even worse,” she said.
ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro, meanwhile, said: “Ganito ang nangyayari sa tuwing ine-embolden ng presidente ang kapulisan upang lumabag ng karapatang pantao. Otorisado ang labis at di-kinakailangang pwersa o excessive use of force. Baril agad, patay agad.”
On Wednesday, Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo and some police trainees from the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group were manning a Quezon City quarantine checkpoint when former soldier Winston Ragos arrived and shouted at them.
The policemen advised Ragos to go home but the latter refused. Despite repeated warnings, Ragos supposedly tried to draw his weapon, prompting Florendo to shoot him.
Ragos' family denied that he was armed while Philippine National Police chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa insisted that Florendo’s life was under threat at the time.
"When you are confronted with a person armed with a pistol, it's equivalent is also a pistol," Gamboa said in a television interview earlier in the day.
Roque assured the public of a fair and swift investigation into the incident.
Early this month, Duterte directed the police and military to shoot people who would cause trouble as the country grapples with the new coronavirus.
Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said threatening violators and enemies of the state with deathly violence is not a crime.
“The law allows the use of lethal violence when the person’s life using it hangs on balance. That is a universal law anchored on the principle of self-preservation,” Panelo had said.
The Commission on Human Rights earlier reminded the government that due process and the rule of law still apply during a national emergency. -- with Erwin Colcol/KBK/RSJ, GMA New