PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — COMMISSION on Human Rights chairman Leila de Lima was shocked after watching the video of the supposed shootout between Quezon City policemen and alleged car thieves, prompting her to wonder if police operations in the past were “real shootouts.”
“This is very disturbing, unsettling and appalling,” she said. “We condemn this action, it violated a very basic human right.”
The video presented by ABS-CBN showed policemen in plain clothes armed with assault rifles firing at the suspects at point blank range. The incident occurred Tuesday.
Police claimed there was a car chase and a firefight, and that those killed were members of a notorious gang of thieves.
The video footage showed the vehicle, which had already stopped, with two suspects inside and another sprawled on the ground. All appeared motionless.
Policemen could then be seen running toward the car and firing straight at the suspects.
“There was no clear resistance or provocation seen already. It would appear that the confrontation was already over,” she said. “There was already no activity among the alleged car thieves, as far as the camera could see. There was no immediate threat and yet they still used excessive force.”
De Lima said the operation could be a case of excessive and blatant violation of operational guidelines.
“Dapat i-disable lang at di dapat patayin, wala nang laban, wala nang resistance, the man was already immobilized,” she noted.
The CHR chief created a team to investigate the shooting in Barangay Piyahan that killed three of the suspects, who were found armed with caliber .45 pistols and .38 revolvers
“This is very disturbing and highly questionable in our viewpoint,” de Lima said.
The Quezon City Police District however insisted that there was a shootout.
“The PNP and the QCPD will never tolerate rub-outs or any human rights violations.” QCPD director Chief Supt. Magtanggol Gatdula said
Gatdula disarmed the policemen involved in the incident but he refused to identify them.
The QCPD also formed its own fact-finding committee headed by Senior Supt. Elmo San Diego, deputy director for administration and Senior Supt. Federico Laciste, deputy director for operations in coordination with the CHR to ensure transparency.
Gatdula assured those implicated in the mess of due process.
He stressed that policemen are briefed not to be careless especially when suspects are armed.
“When suspects pose extreme danger to the life and safety of the law enforcers, the necessary force can be applied under the provisions of Police Operational Procedures,” he pointed out.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus A. Verzosa and National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Leopoldo N. Bataoil also ordered an investigation as both said the police “will never tolerate rubout or any human rights violations.”
Bataoil said they will look into the “judgment call” of the policeman who fired at the suspects. Police are claiming that the suspects inside the vehicle still posed imminent danger when they were shot.
“We will examine their judgment calls if indeed their actions are acceptable under the circumstances. When suspects pose extreme danger to life and safety of our law enforcers, appropriate response is necessary but under the provisions of the POP,” he maintained.
Last December, 17 people were killed in a shoot-out between police and an alleged criminal gang in Manila.
Aside from 10 suspects, four civilians including an eight-year-old girl and her father died, along with two security guards and a policeman.
The CHR recommended charges be filed against the police involved in that shooting, but as yet no one has been charged.