THE Palace on Friday vowed a thorough investigation after Mandaluyong police opened fire on the wrong vehicle and killed two people, including a woman on the way to hospital on Shaw Boulevard late Thursday night.
“[The] matter will be investigated fully even if there appears to be excessive force utilized by police authorities,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
The policemen involved have been disarmed and their movements have been restricted, he added.
The incident occurred on Thursday night when police were called to Barangay Addition Hills following an earlier shooting during an argument between residents.
But they mistakenly opened fire on a van that they thought was carrying the shooter but which in fact was carrying six construction workers taking a woman injured in the incident to hospital, said Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde.
The wounded woman, Jonalyn Ambaon, later died and one of her companions, in the van, Jomar Jayaon, was also killed while two others were wounded, he told reporters.
He said barangay tanod had been the first to open fire on the van but said police would investigate why they had firearms, which are not normally issued to such personnel.
Albayalde said 36 shells from fired rounds had been recovered and that all the guns of the police and watchmen would be checked to see who had fired on the van.
“They said that practically all of them fired their guns. It was only some guys who arrived last who did not fire their guns,” Albayalde said, referring to the responding policemen.
Videos of the incident, aired on local television, show policemen with guns drawn, surrounding the van as gunshots ring out.
“We are not hiding anything here. We are not discounting the fact that there is the possibility that there may have been overkill or violation of our POP [police operating procedure],” Albayalde said.
Albayalde ordered the relief of Mandaluyong City police chief Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran and 10 of his men involved in the deadly shooting on Shaw Boulevard late Thursday night.
He said those relieved are now on a floating status and were transferred to the National Capital Region Police Office-Holding and Accounting Unit in Taguig City, pending the result of the investigation being conducted by his office and the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Unit.
Also relieved were Senior Insp. Maria Cristina Vasques, police officer 2 (PO2) Nel Lemuel Songalia, and Police Officers 1 Algred Uribe, Jave Arellano, Tito Danao, Mark Castillo, Julius Libuen, Bryan Nicolas, Albert Buwag and Kim Rufford Tibunsay.
Initial reports showed that the incident was a case of mistaken identity.
Albayalde said they are looking into the possibility that the wrong information was given to the responding police.
“They were told that the persons inside [the van] were armed,” he said.
Albayade extended his condolences to the families of the victims and promised a transparent investigation into the shooting.
The Justice department has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel probe into the shooting.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II also directed NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct a case build-up on the incident, and if evidence warrants, file appropriate charges against those responsible.
Police were looking for barangay tanod Ernesto Fajardo and Gilberto Dulpo, who were in a mobile patrol . CCTV footage showed one of them firing at the white Mitsubishi Adventure van that was taking Ambaon to hospital.
Mhury Jamon, one of the three construction workers who survived, told reporters that when the barangay tanod told them to stop, they did, and went out the vehicle as ordered. Still, two barangay tanod went toward them and shot at them.
Police who were alerted to the shooting incident, saw the barangay tanod pursuing the van, and also gave chase, then fired repeatedly at the vehicle.
When the police arrived, the barangay tanod left.
Jamon said police told them to get out of the vehicle or they would be fired upon, but by this time, two of the construction workers were on the floor outside the van.
Amboan was lying on her husband and construction worker Eliseo Aluad and Jayaon had already been shot too.
Jamon said they shouted to the police that they were taking an injured person to hospital, but the police did not listen. He said they later heard shots then shouting from inside the van telling the police they had to bring his wounded wife to hospital.
The shooting stopped when there was no longer any sound from people inside the Adventure, Jamon said.
Albayalde acknowledged that there probably were violations in the rules of engagement by the police.
“We have to look into whether there was abuse of discretion,” he added.
Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmelita Abalos on Friday ordered the preventive suspension of the barangay tanod involved in the shooting.
In a letter to the barangay chairman of Addition Hills, Abalos condemned the tanod for firing on the victims’ vehicle and questioned why they were armed.
“Barangay tanods are not supposed to bring firearms while on their tour of duty,” she said. “Hence, the acts of barangay tanods, if news reports are accurate and proven to be true, are.. deplorable.”
Abalos ordered the confiscation of the firearms of the barangay tanod to see if they were duly licensed.
The deadly shooting comes as President Duterte wages a brutal war on drug-related crime, openly urging police to kill suspects and vowing to protect them from legal liability in such incidents.
Government figures show that almost 4,000 drug suspects have been killed by government forces as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign since he took office in mid-2016.
Human rights groups charge that thousands more have been killed by shadowy vigilantes. With Rey E. Requejo and AFP