A round-up of how the media covered Winston Ragos’ death at the hands of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City earlier this week.
A police officer shot dead former soldier Winston Ragos after he breached quarantine in Quezon City in the Philippines earlier this week. The police claimed Ragos was about to draw a weapon from his bag while his family and witnesses argue that he posed no threat. Here is how the region’s media covered one of the biggest stories of the week.
Ragos was surrounded by five police officers, one of whom shot him twice, and he later died in hospital. At the time, the police were unaware of his status as an army veteran who had been discharged in 2017 with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both Philippine National Police (PNP) and the army have opened investigations.
Writing for CNN Philippines, Alyssa Rola covered PNP chief Archie Gamboa’s comments, made soon after the incident. He claimed the officer, Daniel Florendo, made a “judgment call” and asked that the public “trust” that their investigation will be thorough. “I’m asking the public to trust the PNP on our investigation. It’s the Internal Affairs Service who is conducting the investigation,” he said.
Video of the incident was widely shared on social media, and Singapore’s International Business Times was among the publications which analysed the shooting in more detail. Johnlee Varghese described how residents told the police that he was not mentally stable only for officers to claim they had no choice but to shoot him dead.
The shooting was condemned and the police criticised
The killing was roundly condemned. As Neil Arwin Mercado in The Inquirer reported, the opposition group in the House of Representatives weighed in with heavy criticism of the shooting. “This incident highlights the draconian handling of the COVID crisis and this should immediately be changed before more are killed by trigger happy state forces,” said House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate in a statement.
The Philippine Star’s Kristine Joy Patag focused on comments former senator Antonio Trillanes IV made soon after the incident. The ex-navy man wrote: “Before we reached to the point whether a gun was drawn or not, what crime did Ragos commit for him to have gun pointed at him, made to turn his back and raise his hands?”
Meanwhile, in the hours after the event, Twitter users had their say with the hashtag #JusticeForWinstonRagos quickly becoming a trending topic. Gaby Baizas, writing for Rappler, highlighted some of those tweets, many condemning the police and criticising Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and other leadership figures.
Jeline Malasig, writing for Interaksyon, reported that the Commission For Human Rights (CHR) urged the police to follow “clear-cut guidelines” on quarantine law. Clarification is necessary after Duterte’s comments earlier this month, first ordering police officers to shoot to kill if necessary, then claiming he may enforce “martial-like law” in certain areas.
The President’s office swiftly denied responsibility
The debate rages as to whether Duterte’s comments contributed to this, the third such killing since the pandemic arrived in the country. CNN Philippines reported comments by the Presidential Office quickly distancing this incident from his “shoot to kill” directive. “This is not related to anything that the President said, and the policeman also didn’t say that he was implementing any order from the President,” claimed spokesman Harry Roque.
Writing for GMA News, Anna Felicia Bajo gave more information about Ragos’ time in the military, revealing that he survived an attack on his detachment while fighting in the Battle of Marawi in 2010. It seems to have left its mark as seven years later he was discharged with PTSD. He also suffered from schizophrenia.
Rappler’s Rambo Talabong also covered Ragos’ life in more detail, telling readers that his father had been a policeman and that he had reported being beaten by his superiors while serving in the army. He related how his mother, Merlyn, wanted to have him confined only to be denied as COVID-19 cases overwhelmed the local hospital.
The last word should be reserved for Merlyn, who the same reporter interviewed a short time after her loss. Managing to retain a sense of perspective despite her grief, she urged: “They should investigate it well; look at it closely. I wouldn’t have any complaint if they can prove that my son resisted or if he hurt anyone, or if he deserved to die. I hope they open their eyes: our focus is nCov now. The person they killed is not a drug addict, not a pusher, or anything else. The enemy now is nCov,” she added, using another term for the COVID-19 coronavirus.