Philippine Army veteran shot by cops at quarantine checkpoint gets hero's burial

Motorcyclists queue at a quarantine checkpoint in Bacoor, Philippines, on April 17, 2020.
Motorcyclists queue at a quarantine checkpoint in Bacoor, Philippines, on April 17, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA - A former army corporal, who was shot dead by policemen after a shouting match near a quarantine checkpoint in Quezon City last Tuesday (April 21), was buried with full military honours by the Philippine army at the Heroes' Cemetery on Sunday.

Police told local media Mr Winston Ragos, 34, had violated quarantine rules.

A video that circulated online showed five policemen surrounding Mr Ragos and one of them aiming his gun at him and asking him to drop down.

Mr Ragos, who had his hands held up and was facing away from the policemen, turned to face them and shouted at them. He was shot when he tried to pull something out of his sling bag.

It later surfaced that Mr Ragos was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His family told local media he had been unable to take his medication because of the lockdown.

"We leave no man behind," said Army spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala in a phone interview with The Straits Times on Sunday.

"He was our man. Although he has retired and he was not well, he served the army. For us, he's one of us and we leave no man behind."

Col Zagala said Mr Ragos had served in the military for more than seven years. He was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD and was honourably discharged in January 2017. He added that Mr Ragos would sometimes stare into space and had begun hearing voices in his head.

According to Col Zagala, Mr Ragos qualified for burial at the prestigious Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery), where many former Philippine presidents, including Ferdinand Marcos, are buried.

The cemetery is reserved for former and active soldiers, war veterans, government dignitaries, national artists, statesmen, former secretaries of defence and former presidents and their widows.

In addition to assisting in the wake and the burial, Col Zagala said the army also wants to transfer half of Mr Ragos' pension to his nine-year-old daughter.

 
 
 
 

"We will assist them in this critical time," he said.

Though ranking police officials justified the shooting, the Quezon City police told local media a homicide complaint has been filed against Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr.

The army has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own investigation.

The Internal Investigation Service (IAS) of the Philippine National Police as well as the National Police Commission said they would investigate the incident.

Col Zagala said the army conducted its own inquiry and their initial findings were that the announcement by the police that the shooting was "in self-defence and an exercise of their judgment call in performance of duty was an indication that they had prejudged the case".

He pointed out that there were conflicting accounts between the civilian witnesses and the policemen involved, as well as between the accounts of the police and the video of the incident.

The police said they had found a .38-calibre revolver in Mr Ragos' sling bag, which the family denied.

Col Zagala said the army inquiry found it was the policemen involved who handled the evidence, "which cast doubt on the integrity of the investigation".

"Because of all of (these), we came to the conclusion that we should request the NBI to investigate, to remove all doubts," he said.