2 dead in 'mistaken identity' shooting by Philippine police

Members of the Philippine National Police's Scene of the Crime Operatives unit conduct an investigation following a police operation on a street in Mandaluyong city, Manila, on Dec 29, 2017.
Members of the Philippine National Police's Scene of the Crime Operatives unit conduct an investigation following a police operation on a street in Mandaluyong city, Manila, on Dec 29, 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine police have killed two people, including a woman on her way to hospital, after mistaking them for gunmen, authorities said on Friday (Dec 29), the latest deaths at the hands of law enforcement under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The incident occurred on Thursday night when police were called to a Manila suburb following an earlier shooting during an argument between residents.

But they mistakenly opened fire on a van that they thought was carrying the shooter but which in fact was taking a woman injured in the incident to hospital, said district police chief Senior Superintendent Moises Villaceran.

"Our police thought these were among the people that opened fire earlier," Sr Supt Villaceran told reporters.

Videos of the incident, aired on local television, show policemen with guns drawn, surrounding the van as gunshots ring out.

Initial reports showed that two people were killed while two others were wounded, a police aide of Villaceran told AFP on Friday.

The 10 policemen involved in the shooting are being held pending an investigation, the police said.

Metro Manila’s top officer Oscar Albayalde said the police officers from Mandaluyong city, part of greater Manila, may have been given wrong information because they were told by village officials that the passengers of the vehicle were armed.

“We can’t totally blame them,” Chief Albayalde told a media briefing.

Chief Albayalde also relieved the chief of Mandaluyong police of his command pending the investigation.

“We are not hiding anything here. We’re not discounting the possibility... that there may be overkill or violation of our POP,” Chief Albayalde said, referring to Police Operational Procedures (POP).

The deadly shooting comes as Mr Duterte wages a brutal war on drug-related crime, openly urging police to kill suspects and vowing to protect them from legal liability in such incidents.

Government figures show that almost 4,000 "drug personalities" have been killed by government forces as part of Mr Duterte's anti-drug campaign since he took office in mid-2016.

Human rights groups charge that thousands more have been killed by shadowy vigilantes.