The body of a slain worker is seen next to the bullet-riddled AUV on Shaw Boulevard in Barangay Old Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong City. Joven Cagande
City police chief, 10 cops suspended
MANILA, Philippines — The gunfire went on for a long time, even as two van passengers were lying on the ground and someone inside the vehicle was shouting “emergency.”
When the smoke cleared, uniformed policemen approached the bullet-riddled van that had pulled to a stop along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. The police opened the back door of the van and pulled out bloodied passengers.
Police, reportedly led on by barangay watchmen or tanods, had opened fire on the wrong vehicle and killed two persons late Thursday. Two others were wounded.
Responding policemen reportedly mistook the utility van that was carrying a shooting victim as the gunmen’s getaway vehicle.
Jonalyn Ambaon was shot in the head at a construction site in Addition Hills earlier. She died at the hospital while her companion, construction worker Jomar Hayawon, died on the spot.
Ambaon’s partner, Eliseo Aluad, and the driver, Danilo Santiago, are now being treated at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center.
“Niratrat para kami mga kriminal (We were shot at like criminals),” Santiago said from his hospital bed.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde relieved Mandaluyong City police chief Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran Jr. and 10 other policemen involved in the incident.
Those relieved along with Villaceran were Senior Insp. Cristina Vasquez, commander of the Police Community Precinct 1, and her men PO2 Nel Songalia and PO1s Jave Arellano, Tito Danao, Bryan Nicolas, Julius Libuyen, Mark Castillo, Alberto Buag, Kim Tinbusay and Alfred Urbe.
Albayalde ordered Eastern Police District director Chief Supt. Reynaldo Biay to personally oversee the investigation into the incident.
Villaceran claimed the barangay watchmen were the first to fire at the vehicle occupants at the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Old Wack Wack Road.
He said the responding policemen merely followed the watchmen’s lead.
“The tanods thought they were the assailants, that’s why they fired at them. When the police arrived, the tanods pointed them to the vehicle,” he said.
Villaceran said the village guards were reportedly misled by a group who earlier quarreled with the victims.
“They were told that the suspects boarded a white (Mitsubishi) Adventure vehicle and escaped. The village guards did not know that these two groups were quarreling,” he said.
Biay said the incident started with the shooting of Ambaon in the head by a group led by a certain Abdurakman Alfin while she was trying to mediate a quarrel at a construction site in Barangay Addition Hills at about 10:20 p.m. Thursday.
She was shot in the head following an altercation over a parking space.
Her live-in partner Aluad and other workers loaded Ambaon onto a white Mitsubishi driven by Santiago to rush the victim to hospital. Hayawon and three other workers joined them in the vehicle.
While they were about to leave, the village watchmen arrived, but instead of helping them, opened fire at their vehicle, prompting Santiago to step on the gas.
Police who arrived at the scene were told that the suspects were in the vehicle and trying to escape. The police gave chase and cornered Santiago’s Mitsubishi at the junctions of Shaw and Old Wack Wack, then opened fire at the vehicle.
“The village watchmen thought that the suspect in Ambaon’s shooting incident was trying to escape, so they shot at the vehicle. The policemen joined them based on the report of the watchmen,” Albayalde later told a press briefing.
Two of the village watchmen of Barangay Addition Hills were taken into custody by the Mandaluyong police.
Albayalde said no firearms were recovered from the scene while the Mitsubishi van sustained a total of 36 bullet holes.
“An investigation will be conducted as to why the watchmen are armed in the first place,” Albayalde said.
He ordered all policemen involved in the incident disarmed and placed under restrictive custody.
Asked if there was a lapse on the part of the responding policemen, Albayalde said it was most likely.
“We recovered 36 spent shells at the crime scene. We’ll see. We are not discounting the fact that there was a violation of police operational procedures,” he said.
Albayalde admitted there could be an “overkill” on the part of the police but the fact that wrong information was given to them by village watchmen should not be discounted.
“They were told that the occupants of the Mitsubishi were armed, so they opened fire,” he said of the policemen.
Photo shows Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde with the 10 officers who were suspended for involvement in the shooting. Boy Santos
‘Why did this happen to us?’
Two of the survivors from the fusilade blamed the barangay watchmen.
“They were the ones who shot us. We don’t know why they did this to us,” Mhury Jamon said in Filipino.
Ruel Distor also gave a similar statement. He said the barangay tanods fired at them first, and the police patrol car was a few meters behind.
Jamon said they were in their quarters when they heard gunfire. When they went outside, they saw Ambaon with her head bleeding. They tried to get a tricycle but could not find one.
Santiago then volunteered to bring Ambaon to a hospital.
Jamon said another shot was fired in their direction just as they were loading Ambaon onto the vehicle.
Jamon and Distor said barangay watchmen kept on firing even after their vehicle had stopped along Shaw Boulevard. This was where Hawayon was killed.
“He was trying to open the door when he was hit in the body,” Jamon said.
Moments later, the responding policemen arrived.
“The policemen told us to get out of the vehicle or they would open fire,” Jamon said.
Jamon said the policemen and barangay watchmen continued to fire despite their pleas that they were bringing an injured woman to a hospital.
“We were shouting that we were with a patient but they did not listen,” he said.
Aluad, from his hospital bed, said that as the gunfire went on, he kept shouting at the police that they were transporting a wounded person: “May tama, may tama, emergency.”
Video footage aired by GMA 7 News bear out their narration of the events.
“We cannot understand why this happened,” Distor said.
City Mayor Menchie Abalos said the incident was “highly deplorable and unacceptable.”
Abalos directed Barangay Addition Hills chairman Kent Familial to present the watchmen involved in the incident.
Abalos said the duty of village watchmen is to patrol their respective areas of jurisdiction.
“As in those instances where their lives might be placed in peril, their duty is not to fire shots at anyone but to immediately report the incident to the police officers for the conduct of an immediate and legitimate police operation,” Abalos said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, wants the barangay watchmen investigated for carrying firearms.
The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) will start its investigation of the policemen involved in the incident.
IAS Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo said they would determine if the police officers involved committed lapses in police operational procedures.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the incident.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II tasked NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct an investigation.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will also conduct a parallel investigation to determine if there were human rights violations committed by the lawmen.
“We will specifically determine if there was excessive use of force on the part of the Mandaluyong police and was there due diligence employed by them during the shooting incident or were there rules of engagement under the PNP operational procedures followed or violated,” said Diana de Leon, CHR regional director for Metro Manila. – Emmanuel Tupas, Evelyn Macairan, Janvic Mateo