Police (and ‘tanod’) overkill | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

Police (and ‘tanod’) overkill

/ 05:32 AM January 02, 2018

To the grim tally of extinction during the holidays — among them the sinking of fast craft MV Mercraft 3 on Dec. 21 that left five people dead, and the fire that raged for more than 30 hours at NCCC Mall in Davao City where 38 mostly young people perished — is now added the shocking shooting incident in Mandaluyong City on Dec. 28 that claimed the lives of two people and wounded two others.

But while the Davao mall fire and the boat’s capsizing off Dinahican, Quezon, in the wake of Tropical Storm “Urduja” may be viewed as terrible accidents aggravated by official negligence, the deaths in the Mandaluyong incident apparently arose from something more insidious: police overkill.

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Per reports, on Thursday night cops responded to a call for help from barangay tanod or village watchmen involving a crime at the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Old Wack Wack Road in Barangay Pleasant Hills.

What a tragic irony in that name, it would turn out; when the policemen arrived, the barangay tanod were said to be already firing at a van with seven people onboard.

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The cops opened fire as well; the target vehicle, an Adventure, turned into a virtual sitting duck for the vicious fusillade. As many as 36 empty shells and slugs were recovered from the scene of the crime.

The tanod and the cops were, in fact, firing at the wrong target. A woman injured in an earlier shooting incident over a parking dispute was being rushed to a nearby hospital in the Adventure.

The woman, Jonalyn Ambaon, was accompanied in the vehicle by six other people, including her partner Eliseo Aluad. The other passengers were coworkers of Aluad, among them Jomar Hayawun. Ambaon and Hayawun died on the spot from the shooting; Aluad and another person were wounded, and the three others somehow escaped unharmed.

Think about it: Ambaon had a gunshot wound and was in critical condition, but could still have been saved had the vehicle reached the hospital in time.

Instead, she suffered the extraordinary cruel fate of being shot at twice in one night, with the final bullets fired by police officers who were supposed to come to the succor of stricken citizens like her.

That shocking twist applies as well to her rescuers: Here were ordinary people lending a hand in a life-and-death situation where they needed all the help they could get. How could they end up being fired at indiscriminately by policemen and barangay tanod tasked to keep the peace and serve the community?

Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, later blamed “false information” for the mix-up, saying the cops might have acted on the tanod’s warning of armed men aboard the vehicle.

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He has relieved the 10 police officers involved as well as Mandaluyong’s police chief, Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran, acknowledging “possible overkill or violation of [police operational procedures].”

In particular, Albayalde himself raised the question why the police fired despite “the absence of an active shooter” — a patently anomalous situation captured on video.

Also anomalous: The three village watchmen were armed when they shouldn’t have been, and were actually the first to fire at the vehicle, according to Mhury Jamon, one of the survivors.

Why were the barangay tanod carrying guns? And what basic rules of engagement were shoved aside when the police instantly joined the shooting spree?

This alarming trigger-happy behavior by uniformed authorities once again raises urgent questions about the culture of impunity that has infected the police force.

As former solicitor general Florin Hilbay correctly pointed out in a Facebook post: “Those killed by the PNP in Mandaluyong are dead not because the police was fed wrong information… They are dead because the police thought they can kill ALL people inside a possible getaway vehicle just because it was carrying suspects. Does this mindset sound familiar?”

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TAGS: Florin Hilbay, Inquirer editorial, Mandaluyong shooting incident, Oscar Albayalde, police overkill
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