This is what happens when people believe they have blanket authority to shoot to kill. In a video recorded late Thursday night, the unmistakable sound of rapid fire could be heard as a white Mitsubishi Adventure pulled to a stop along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong. Two men stepped out of the van and lay face down on the ground, and then the gunfire resumed.
Few people could have survived that volley of gunfire. Two passengers of the van were killed, one of them a woman who was shot during a neighborhood fight in Barangay Addition Hills. Jonalyn Ambaon was being rushed to the hospital by her partner and construction workers who had volunteered to help when the shooting started. One of the workers, Jomar Hayawon, died in the van.
Her partner Eliseo Aluad kept shouting “emergency” as the shooting started, but the hail of gunfire continued. When it finally ended, the gunmen approached and pulled the passengers out of the van “like pigs,” as described by a witness. One of the survivors reportedly escaped being finished off only by pretending to be dead.
Who were the gunmen? Persons tasked to keep the public safe: policemen and barangay tanod or watchmen. They had responded to the neighborhood brawl wherein Amboan was accidentally shot and wounded. Police said the barangay watchmen had opened fire first at the van, believing it was a getaway vehicle.
Why are barangay watchmen armed? And why didn’t the police bother to verify the identities of the van passengers? The video clearly showed no gunfire coming from the van, so the excuse of resisting arrest or “nanlaban” cannot be applied to justify the overkill.
Because saving innocent lives is of paramount importance, the Philippine National Police has rules of engagement, which are supposed to be followed when pursuing suspects. It looks like the Mandaluyong cops never read the rules. Worse, they chased and shot the wrong persons.
As of yesterday afternoon, 10 of the policemen involved in the turkey shoot had been suspended together with the chief of the Mandaluyong police, for command responsibility. Those horrified by the video footage can only hope the trigger-happy cops and village watchmen will not end up with medals and a promotion. Anyone who shoots first and asks questions later, when he is clearly not facing an armed threat, must be made to face the consequences.