Army orders probe into police killing of ex-soldier Winston Ragos

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Army ordered a probe into the killing of former corporal Winston Ragos in an altercation with police in Quezon City last Tuesday, April 21, Army spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala said in a statement on Thursday, April 23.

"Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, commanding general [of the] Philippine Army, ordered an investigation to be conducted by the Army Judge Advocate in coordination with the Philippine National Police in order that justice be given to the death of Ragos," Zagala said.

At around 2:30 pm on Tuesday, Ragos angered cops at a checkpoint along Maligaya Drive in Barangay Pasong Putik, Quezon City, for being outdoors despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Although raising his arms in surrender, Ragos defied the cops' orders to drop on the ground. When he turned to face them and appeared to be reaching for something in his sling bag, Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr shot him twice in the torso. Ragos was then brought to the Commonwealth Hospital where he was declared dead at 5:57 pm.

Witnesses had insisted to the cops that Ragos was mentally ill. The military confirmed this on Thursday, saying the former corporal had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"In January 2017, Ragos was given a complete disability discharge from his military service, complete with pension and other assistance, after being diagnosed with a mental disorder. To a soldier, the wounds of war are not just physical but also mental, and their scars are not always visible," Zagala said.

Ragos had served with the Army's 31st Infantry Battalion under the 9th Infantry "Spear" Division headquartered in Camarines Sur, where the military often battles communist guerrillas. His mother Merlyn Ragos said the ex-soldier suffered trauma or war shock from his years in the service.

Ragos may have acquired his condition when his detachment came under heavy attack and was "nearly subdued," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said in a separate statement.

PTSD is something many members of the military suffer after experiencing combat, and the AFP has long pushed for a more comprehensive program to address this.

"The Philippine Army is saddened over the loss of its former soldier.... We sincerely condole with his family for this unfortunate event," Zagala said.

"The Philippine Army seeks awareness on the plight of former soldiers struggling with mental problems. Even though they are no longer soldiers, they continue fighting a silent and lifelong battle," the Army colonel added.

Florendo, the police officer who shot Ragos, now faces criminal and administrative charges, according to the Quezon City Police District.

The police said they found a loaded caliber 38 revolver in Ragos' sling bag.

The incident in Barangay Pasong Putik came 3 weeks since President Rodrigo Duterte told the police and military to "shoot dead" people who "cause trouble" during the lockdown of Luzon and many other parts of the Philippines, a measure to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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