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MANILA, Philippines – A fuming bald man emerges from a red sedan, physically assaults an unarmed cyclist, and threatens him further by drawing and cocking his gun.
The seconds-long incident was captured on video and widely shared on the internet, where almost anything stays forever.
In a press conference on Sunday, August 27, the man identified as Wilfredo “Willie” Gonzales blamed social media for depicting him as a bad person. He said he and his victim, who was not present in the briefing, had come to a settlement. But persistent reports online say that the cyclist was pressured, if not threatened, into giving his consent.
Gonzales’ face has been added to the long list of state agents who have abused their power, instead of using it to serve and protect Filipinos, a tell-tale sign of the persisting culture of impunity in the Philippines. What else do we know about him?
A dismissed QC cop
Gonzales, now 63 years old, is a former cop with more than 20 years of service. He served at the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), where the Sunday press conference was held.
The latest altercation is not his first. In an interview over dzBB on Tuesday, August 29, PNP spokesperson Police Colonel Jean Fajardo disclosed that Gonzales had faced an administrative case involving grave misconduct in 2006. He, however, reached the compulsory retirement age of 56 for the PNP in 2016 before the case was resolved. It was only in 2018, or two years after, that the case led to his dismissal from service.
It was only in 2017 that the case was resolved, and his motion for reconsideration was junked in 2018. This allowed him to collect on his retirement benefits for two years, after which these were suspended.
Gonzales had also been demoted several times – he left the service with the rank of PO1, the lowest rank within the PNP structure.
He was meted with 120-day and 90-day suspensions, but these were not implemented.
Fajardo said the PNP is now looking into the status of criminal charges that were reportedly filed against Gonzales too.
Rappler has reached out to the PNP to confirm more information on Gonzales, but has yet to receive a reply. We will update this story as soon as more details come in.
Gonzales also worked for the Supreme Court as a coterminous employee under the office of Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario. The High Court on Wednesday, August 30, said that his employment was terminated on Sunday, August 27 “upon discovery of the incident.”
The Land Transportation Office on Monday, August 28, issued a 90-day preventive suspension on Gonzales’ driver’s license pending results of its own investigation. Due process must still be observed, LTO Chief Assistant Secretary Vigor Mendoza II said, in determining whether Gonzales should be stripped of driving privileges.
In a statement, Mendoza said a permanent revocation of his driving license will depend on the outcome of the probe. The office also previously said that the red car is not registered under Gonzales.
Mendoza also said that a show cause order has been issued against Gonzales – it instructs him to appear before LTO investigators Thursday afternoon, August 31. Gonzales should bring with him a notarized affidavit explaining why he should not be held liable for at least 4 offenses – disregarding traffic sign, obstruction of traffic, reckless driving, and improper person to operate a vehicle.
Failure to appear and submit an affidavit will be construed as a “waiver to be heard on the allegations against him and allows LTO to resolve the case administratively based on the available documents and records,” Mendoza said.
The licenses of his firearms and permit to carry were also revoked on Sunday, August 27, PNP’s firearms and explosives officer (FEO) chief Paul Kenneth Lucas said in an interview over Radyo5.
A total of four guns were confiscated from Gonzales on Monday, August 28. Three 45-cal pistols are now with the FEO and one 9mm pistol is with the QCPD.
During the August 27 press conference hosted by QCPD, Gonzales insisted that he and the cyclist already reached an agreement. But according to lawyer and cycling advocate Raymond Fortun, the cyclist was allegedly coerced into admitting that he was in the wrong.
Fortun posted a screenshot of his conversation with the victim on Facebook, in which he claimed that he paid P500 to Gonzales and was forced to admit that he hit the former cop’s car.
The cyclist said he would not be pressing any charges or complaints himself out of fear for his and his family’s safety.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte appealed to the cyclist to “come forward so that [Gonzales], whom I consider a menace to society, is held accountable.” Her administration vowed to extend legal assistance and protection “so that justice is served.”
“This culture of impunity is not acceptable in QC and I have a duty and responsibility to maintain peace and order in our city and to send a strong message that acts such as those committed shall not be tolerated and that he must be held accountable,” Belmonte said.
“[Gonzales] is not only an irresponsible gun owner with anger management issues, but a danger to our people,” she added. – Rappler.com