CCTV footage uploaded to Youtube by Joemar Gonzaga

At high noon today, April 26, the Philippine Army buried ex-corporal Winston Ragos with full military honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig, the equivalent of the United States’ Arlington National Cemetery.

For his comrades-in-arms, Ragos died a hero fighting a battle. It was a different one — silent, lonely and personal — but a tougher fight against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which had left a very deep mental scar.

Unfortunately, Ragos fell not from an enemy bullet, which he had feared most and was a reason he suffered for seven years, emotionally and mentally.

A police officer, Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo, shot him twice in the body at a road block in Fairview by a police officer after an altercation.

The law enforcer had claimed he only acted in self-defense when Ragos made a dangerous move to draw a gun from his dark-colored sling bag, a story refuted by witnesses who said the ex-soldier was unarmed and the excessive force was unnecessary.

The Philippine Army also doubted the police version of the incident as Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commanding general of Philippine Army, demanded an impartial investigation into Ragos’ death at the hands of a law enforcer.

It was a noble gesture because Ragos was no longer in the roster of troops in the 100,000-member ground forces. He was discharged from the military in January 2017 after a seven-month confinement at a military facility for a mental disorder caused by a traumatic experience in 2010.

Based on his records, when he was a new recruit, New People’s Armyguerrillas nearly overrun an army detachment in the Bicol region where he was assigned.

He survived the vicious rebel attack but saw some of his own comrades die in the firefight. He recovered from his physical wounds but it left a deep mental scar, haunting him for the next seven years.

Before his seven-month confinement, Ragos made three more short trips to hospitals for the same reasons. The fear of death stares at him wherever he was posted, mainly in the Bicol region, a hotbed of Maoist-led guerrillas.

For two months, he was also assigned to Lanao del Sur, a volatile Muslim province in Mindanao where he constantly feared attacks from separatist rebels and pro-Islamic State militants.

Though Ragos was already a civilian, the Philippine Army did not forget him. Two soldiers stood guard at his flag-draped coffin at the mortuary of a cemetery reserved for heroes, where he shared a resting place with former presidents, generals and war veterans.

As the bugle calls died down, the military vowed to get justice for one of its own, making a pledge on Ragos’ grave that no man would be left behind.

The impartial investigation demanded by the military will take some time as the Quezon City Police has insisted Ragos was armed with a handgun, which he had attempted to draw.

But a video of the shooting incident circulating in social media showed the situation could have been resolved peacefully, as there were three or four other police officers who stood idly near Ragos, pointing a gun at the sergeant.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), without any prodding from the military and other sectors, should review its rules of engagement in dealing with citizens who are flouting the curbs on movement under an extended and expanded enhanced community quarantine.

The PNP should also review its recruitment, training, and standard operating procedures as well as value formation to avoid the use of excessive force to enforce the lock down.

The police is a civilian organization under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and its training is much different from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, whose men are trained to kill their targets.

But it seemed the military has been showing more restraint than the national police. As a result, the citizens fear the police forces more than the soldiers.

In the past, police forces were trusted by the citizens, but since 2016 when Rodrigo Duterte was elected into office, the image of the Philippine National Police has made a turn for the worse because of its involvement in the brutal and bloody war on drugs.

Nearly 6,000 people have died in police anti-drug operations, described by undercover cops as shootouts with street-level drugs peddlers and users. In all these incidents, the police claimed self-defense.

The stories of these shootouts have become all-too-familiar to ordinary people and the same narrative was once again peddled by the Quezon City police in the incident involving Sergeant Florendo and ex-corporal Ragos.

The police forces, under the Duterte administration, have become an organization that shoots first to kill unarmed suspects, instead of disabling or maiming them.

For instance, in August 2017, a group of Caloocan City policemen executed 17-year-old school boy Kian delos Santos in a dark alley and made it appear that he was killed in a shootout. A closed-circuit television footage, however, belied the police narrative, which led prosecutors to indict them for the crime of murder. A court found them guilty last year.

Ragos’ case was almost similar to the Kian delos Santos killing, but the young boy’s murder was established by forensic evidence and CCTV footage, exposing the lies of the police officers.

It would be difficult to establish the same guilt in the killing of Ragos, but circumstances could prove that violence was unnecessary and Florendo made a poor judgment call in firing two fatal shots.

The administration’s war on drugs was not the only factor behind the rise of unnecessary police killings. The president has restored the militarist tendencies in the civilian police force by bringing back its military ranks.

The president’s constant speeches warning people violating the quarantine procedures that they would be shot by security forces has somehow contributed to the current mindset of police forces.

Eduardo Año, a retired army general and a former armed forces chief, must institute reforms in the civilian police forces to restore public trust and confidence to “Mamang Pulis” in every street corner.

The PNP can restore faith on the law enforcement by reviewing, first, its rule of engagement as well as its manual of police procedures, and implementing non-lethal means.

In other countries, police forces are armed with tasers and rubber bullets. They remained calm and exercised self- restraint and maximum tolerance in dealing with civilian law offenders.

Many reforms have been made in the PNP, like installing body cameras and involving local officials in conducting raids and arrests of suspected drug offenders but, more often than not, these procedures were neglected and ignored, giving rise to irregularities.

The unjustified killings continue to this day. There were thousands before Kian delos Santos was executed in 2017 and Winston Ragos was the latest victim in the long list of the flawed practices of the national police.

It must stop now. Ragos should be the last victim.