The December 28 shooting incident in Mandalu- yong that killed two people and injured two others is an indication of how the Philippine National Police (PNP) has degenerated over the years.
The PNP has become an embarrassment to the country, with major news agencies carrying the story of the “mistaken identity shooting” all over the globe.
It is appalling how a bunch of rookies trained their guns at the wrong vehicle on the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Wack-Wack Road.
The white Mitsubishi Adventure vehicle was carrying a woman, the wife of a construction worker, who was shot in the head amid a heated argument between construction workers and noisy gasoline delivery boys.
Tanod or village watchmen in Barangay Addition Hills mistakenly thought that vehicle was maneuvered by the suspects to escape the crime scene and fired at it.
Not only did the poor woman fail to get emergency treatment, she died senselessly because of bumbling watchmen and trigger-happy policemen.
If it was true the Mandaluyong watchmen fired first, and the police only followed their cue, the question is, why were the watchmen carrying guns in the first place? Watchmen are supposed to carry only clubs or truncheons, lest they become the private army of the village chief or the mayor.
The second and probably most important question is, why would policemen take their cue from watchmen? Aren’t they supposed to have their own operational procedures when responding to shooting incidents?
The passengers of the white vehicle were said to be shouting “Emergency!” at authorities. In the end, 36 empty bullet shells and slugs were recovered from the scene, indicating not just operational lapses but a clear overkill.
The mistaken identity shooting incident in Mandaluyong sends a frightening message to the public – that policemen tend to shoot first and ask questions later. The underlying assumption is reckless and dangerous; for the police, human life is easily dispensable for the sake of expediency.
Good move on the part of Metro Manila police director Oscar Albayalde and his spokeswoman Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas during media interviews to avoid making excuses for the unfortunate incident.
So far, 10 police officers, including the head of the responding team, Senior Insp. Maria Cristina Vasquez, and three village watchmen, are facing homicide charges.
All, except Vazquez and one of the watchmen, Gilberto Gulpo, who remain at large, have been ordered detained at the Mandaluyong police station.
All efforts should be exerted to find the missing suspects and bring the entire responding team to justice.
The PNP should take this a step further and order a review of its operational procedures in light of the Mandaluyong incident. If this sounds like a tired refrain, well, it is. There have been several similar incidents before, yet the PNP still appears to be ill prepared to do the job.
Camp Crame should also order an inventory of the skills of its field personnel, and those who do not possess the barest minimum should be sent to retraining.
This New Year, it cannot be business as usual for the PNP. It must shape up and be a law enforcement organization worthy of the people’s respect, not an object of public ridicule.