By Daniel Llanto
Camp Aguinaldo prepared an elaborate burial for retired Cpl. Winston Ragos whose remains were given full military honors and interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Ragos was retired early after he showed symptoms of post-stress traumatic syndrome (PSTD) during his tour of duty in the Marawi siege.
The military establishment asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into incident separate from that of the police.
Police M/Sgt. Daniel Florendo fatally shot Ragos, allegedly in self-defense, in Barangay Pasong Putik on April 21 after the latter supposedly started an argument with personnel of the Quezon City Police District manning the checkpoint unprovoked.
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay told NBI Director Eric Dastor in a letter that an impartial NBI investigation is necessary because of the “apparent conflicting claims of police operatives involved, witness accounts and materials available from open sources.”
“Apparent pre-judgment by police investigators moved the Army to seek help from the NBI so that justice may be served for Ragos and his family,” the Army said in a press statement.
Top police officials virtually cleared Florendo in the incident, favoring his statements that he shot Ragos in self-defense.
The police and military historically do not see eye to eye. This persists today even with the integration of the police with the military.
Wary of the Ragos killing driving a wedge into police-military relations, the Department of Justice (DoJ) on May 18 announced that far from being a closed case, state prosecutors would conduct a preliminary investigation to get to the bottom of the fatal shooting.
Justice Sec.Menardo Guevarra said prosecutors did not remand the complaint to the police, belying an earlier statement of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.
“The DoJ, in fact, set it for a full-blown preliminary investigation in June (instead of a summary inquest) to afford all parties concerned sufficient opportunity to present their respective evidence,” Guevarra said.
Gamboa earlier said in an interview with DZMM TeleRadyo that the complaint was “still lacking on evidence” and “would not warrant filing of the appropriate case.”
“That’s why the case was returned to the police for further investigation,” he added.
Although the police leadership was quick to defend Florendo, the Supreme Court in 2013 ruled in Aguilar vs Department of Justice et al. — a case that involved a suspect being killed in police custody — that “when the accused admits killing the victim but invokes a justifying circumstance, the constitutional presumption of innocence is effectively waived and the burden of proving the existence of such circumstance shifts to the accused.”
“Apparent prejudgment by police investigators moved the Army to seek help from the NBI so that justice may be served for Ragos and his family,” the Army said in a press statement.
There were reports that said the NBI probe found that the gun was “planted,” contradicting a police report that the former soldier was carrying a firearm.
But Guevarra refused to comment on the report and said: “All evidence will come out during the preliminary investigation. Let’s wait for it, in fairness to all parties involved.”
“We condole with the family of the late Cpl. Ragos. He has suffered enough from the challenges of PTSD caused by the invisible wounds of war. Our priority right now is to take care of his family ensuring they have all the resources they need during this critical time. The Philippine Army honors Ragos for his service and sacrifice that defines us as an Army.” said Army Chief Gapay.
The Army shouldered the funeral costs, while donors extended financial assistance to the family to cover hospital bills and other expenses.