Manila: Philippine police have killed two people, including a woman on her way to hospital, after mistaking them for gunmen, authorities said today, the latest deaths at the hands of law enforcement under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The incident occurred last night when police were called to a Manila suburb following an earlier shooting during an argument between residents.
But they mistakenly opened fire on a van that they thought was carrying the shooter but which in fact was taking a woman injured in the incident to hospital, said Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde.
The wounded woman later died and one of her companions in the van was also killed while two others were wounded, he told reporters.
“I find no excuse (for) this unfortunate event that has caused the death of two individuals and the wounding of two others,” he said in a statement.
He said village watchmen had been the first to open fire on the van but said police would investigate why they had firearms which are not normally issued to such personnel.
Albayalde said 36 shells from fired rounds had been recovered and that all the guns of the police and watchmen would be checked to see who had fired on the van.
“They said that practically all of them fired their guns. It was only some guys who arrived last who did not fire their guns,” Albayalde said, referring to the responding policemen.
Videos of the incident, aired on local television, show policemen with guns drawn, surrounding the van as gunshots ring out.
“We are not hiding anything here. We are not discounting the fact that there is the possibility that there may have been overkill or violation of our POP (police operating procedure),” Albayalde said.
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque released a statement saying “(the) matter will be investigated fully even if there appears to be excessive force utilised by police authorities”.
He also stressed that the policemen involved have been disarmed and their movements restricted while the case is being investigated.
Both the Justice Department and the official Commission on Human Rights said they would investigate the shooting as well.
The deadly shooting comes as Duterte wages a brutal war on drug-related crime, openly urging police to kill suspects and vowing to protect them from legal liability in such incidents.
Government figures show that almost 4,000 “drug personalities” have been killed by government forces as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign since he took office in mid- 2016.
Human rights groups charge that thousands more have been killed by shadowy vigilantes.