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His Name Was Winston Ragos, And He Was An Army Veteran

He was 34 years old.
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His name was Winston Ragos, and he was a former soldier. In the Philippine Army, he was a corporal, but to his family, he was just “Ton-Ton.”

In 2017, Ton-Ton was discharged from the military through to “compulsory retirement” due to “war shock” or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Early reports stated he was a Marawi battle veteran, but military records state he was discharged before the siege. He was trained to fight enemies in battle, but his discharge marked the start of another fight, this time against mental illness. 

According to his sister, Ragos fought PTSD as well as schizophrenia in the years that followed, up until the day he died on April 21, 2020.

He was 34 years old.

An army veteran, Ragos was shot twice in the chest at 2:30 p.m. by Quezon City Police master sergeant Daniel Florendo Jr. at a quarantine control point along Maligaya Drive, Barangay Pasong Putik, Quezon City.

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Three hours after he was shot, Ragos was declared dead at 5:57 p.m. after the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) delivered him to the Commonwealth Hospital.

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According to the QCPD, Florendo shot Ragos, whom they said was violating quarantine, in self-defense as Florendo was in “imminent danger,” according to the QCPD spot report. QCPD chief brigadier general Ronnie Montejo said the policeman made a “judgment call” in that situation.

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According to the police, Ragos started shouting at them and refused to follow their orders to go home. Police say he claimed he was ex-army after “ignoring” their orders. In footage circulating on social media, the police can be heard telling him to lie flat on the floor as he was standing with his back to the police, arms raised in surrender for around 10 seconds.

He then turned around, with his empty hands extended to the police, and said, “Bakit? Anong problema ko sa iyo?” Then everything escalated quickly when Ragos moved to reach into his bag as Florendo aimed his gun at him. QCPD claimed he reached into his bag to get a .38 caliber pistol. After he was shot twice in the chest, Ragos stood still for a few seconds, then threw his bag on the street.

His loved ones adamantly deny it was a pistol.

Walang ginagawa yung kapatid ko. Akala nila bubunot, wala naman pong bunbunutin. Wala pong armas,” said Ragos’ sister.

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“One of the bystanders testified that a bottled water, not a gun, was inside that bag,” said Ragos’ niece in a post on Facebook.

Bakit niyo binaril, sir? Dapat kinapkapan niyo muna,” shouted a bystander in police footage of the shooting after Ragos was shot.

Wala kong pake kahit walang dala,” can be heard coming from an officer in the footage.

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Florendo’s commander, lieutenant colonel Jeffrey Bilaro later confirmed they only found out about Ragos’ mental illness after the incident.

"When a suspect does not follow a command like 'put your hands up', then he has the intention to fight back or may be armed. He is challenging the police," said police brigadier general and PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac to Super Radyo DZBB.

According to the QCPD, Florendo is now facing criminal and administrative probes as the police department gets to the bottom of the situation and listens to his side of the story. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the District Internal Affairs Service of the QCPD are already investigating Ragos’ death.

The Philippine Army has also ordered a separate investigation by the Army Judge Advocate "in order that justice be given to the death of Ragos." 

"To a soldier, the wounds of war are not just physical, but also mental, and their scars are not always visible," said the Philippine Army in a statement. "The Philippine Army seeks awareness on the plight of former soldiers struggling with mental problems. Even though they are no longer soldiers, they continue fighting a silent and lifelong battle." 

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Contradicting Ragos' mother, Army spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala claimed that Ragos was discharged before the Marawi Siege, but served in combat in 2010 in Camarines Norte where a number of clashes have occurred against the New People's Army. 

According to Ragos’ sister, Winston was only in Manila for a vacation and was planning to return to his home in Albay when quarantine is over.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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