PNP chief says cop who shot ex-military only made 'judgment call', vows 'thorough' probe on incident

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23)— The police officer who shot and killed an army veteran only made a "judgment call" at the scene, Philippine National Police chief PGen Archie Gamboa said Thursday as authorities opened an investigation into the controversial Quezon City shooting incident.

"According sa (to the) report, he tried to draw his firearm. That's why it resorted to the decision, which was really a judgment call on the part of (Police Master Sergeant Daniel) Florendo on what to do at that very moment," Gamboa told CNN Philippines' The Source.

A footage of the incident, which made rounds online on Wednesday, showed nearby residents trying to stop Florendo from shooting Winston Ragos, a retired soldier who supposedly violated the enhanced community quarantine protocols.

Officials said Ragos, who had a "heated" argument with police manning the checkpoint, allegedly attempted to pull out a .38 caliber hand gun from his sling bag after law enforcers asked him to head home.

Witnesses who have asked not to be named, however, claimed the victim did not have a gun inside his bag. They said that upon checking, police found that it only carried his quarantine pass.

With conflicting claims on deck, Gamboa said he will leave it up to officials to conduct a "thorough" investigation on the facts of the case. He said an administrative probe on Florendo is already underway, reiterating that complaints will be filed should authorities find loopholes.

"We have to know all the facts. We sympathize with the family of Ragos, but please give the PNP the trust that we will investigate this case thoroughly," Gamboa said.

"And if appropriate, we will also file criminal charges against him (policeman)."

'Stage of survival'

PMaj Elmer Monsalve, head of the Quezon City Police District-Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, echoed Gamboa's sentiment, saying Florendo held on to a "stage of survival" mindset during the incident.

"Nasa stage of survival ka. At that time na siya may baril at may baril din ang kalaban mo, at maaaring ang isa sa inyo ay mamatay, ang isa diyan, nasa stage of survival," Monsalve told CNN Philippines' Balitaan later in the day.

[Translation: You're in a stage of survival. At that time, the police had a gun, your enemy had a gun, one of you may get killed, the other one is in a stage of survival.]

Monsalve has yet to confirm specific details of the case, with authorities still awaiting the autopsy and investigation reports. He noted at least four witnesses have already submitted their statements for the probe.

No excuse for violence against the 'mentally-challenged'

The incident sparked rage on social media as Ragos was said to have suffered from post-traumatic disorder after completing his tour of duty during the Marawi siege in 2017.

The hashtag #JusticeForWinstonRagos likewise made it to the top trending topics online, with netizens and human rights advocates denouncing police killings, especially for "mentally-challenged" individuals.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also slammed the controversial incident, saying there's no excuse for brutality and violence" especially towards the powerless. She also urged the Commission on Human Rights to conduct a full investigation into the matter.

Gamboa, for his part, said the cops had "no way of knowing" Ragos' state at the moment. However, he assured that police officials are in constant communication with CHR officers regarding human rights regulations that should be followed during operations.

The police chief also sought the public's trust as authorities continue to dig deep into the case.

"I'm asking the public to trust the PNP on our investigation. It's the Internal Affairs Service who is conducting the investigation," Gamboa said.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles and Vince Ferreras contributed to this report.