‘Heartless,’ ‘painful’ video goes viral; 1.6M views so far
Whoever uploaded to the Internet a video of the execution of a wounded police officer by a Moro rebel during the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash is “heartless,” Malacañang said on Wednesday as the police pleaded with netizens to stop sharing the video, which it described as “painful.”
The video began circulating on social media on Tuesday, and it has gone viral, with more than 1.6 million hits as of press time.
It shows a wounded Special Action Force (SAF) officer lying on the ground, still alive, in what appears to be a cornfield. A man wearing flip-flops approaches the helpless officer and shoots him with a semiautomatic pistol, first in the chest then in the head.
From 55th SAF Company
The officer was PO1 Joseph Sagonoy of the 55th SAF Company, his brother Julius Sagonoy told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“I have seen the video and I confirm he is my brother,” Sagonoy said.
Sagonoy said he felt pity for his brother and anger for his killers.
“He was already down, but alive. I want justice, although I do not know where to start and how to do it,” he said.
Sagonoy said his brother had gunshot wounds in other parts of the body.
“I was told he died from multiple gunshot wounds,” he said.
The slain officer was the second of the four children of coconut farmers Flavio and Lorna Sagonoy of Cabungaan village, in Lobos town, Northern Samar province.
He was a graduate of criminology from the University of Eastern Philippines and was a member of the pioneering Class of 2010.
The video also shows a river, apparently the river that cuts across Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province where an SAF counterterrorism operation on Jan. 25 ended in a clash with Moro guerrillas in which 44 police commandos, 18 Moro fighters and five civilians were killed.
Gunfire can be heard in the background as the shooter walks through the cornfield, picking up weapons of slain policemen.
Bodies are scattered on the cornfield, apparently officers from the 55th SAF Company.
As can be gleaned from the 6-minute-10-second video, it appears that the armed men who clashed with the policemen do not know who they have just fought.
In the opening scene, the videographer refers to the wounded policeman as an “intruder.”
“This is the intruder. Now we’re finishing him off,” the videographer says.
It also appears that the armed men do not know where exactly their enemies are, as they nearly shot their companions.
“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” someone says as shots ring out.
Later, the armed men panic when someone shouted: “Don’t, there are many of them.”
Then someone shouts, “Allahu Akbar (God is great).”
Some of the armed men say they have run out of bullets.
Somebody directs the group to the river where the armed men forage for ammunition among the dead police commandos.
“Whoever uploaded that video is a heartless fellow and if you still have some humanity left in your soul, we ask you to take it down,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a briefing for reporters in Malacañang.
To the public outraged at the release of the video, Lacierda said: “You have a right to be angry. You have a right to be outraged by such a brutal display of violence. But at the end of the day, we need to seek the truth. We need to find justice for all of those who died, including the SAF hero who was on that video. And that’s what we intend to do.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to authenticate the video.
De Lima called the shooting of the wounded policeman “summary execution” and said the perpetrators “ought to be punished.”
“Based on that bare video, if everything there is authentic, including that particular portion about that uniformed guy being killed in that manner, then certainly there is criminal liability there,” De Lima told reporters at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“That is an act of cruelty, an atrocity. And atrocities under any setting, whether it’s peace time, wartime or [in] armed conflict is not at all acceptable, totally unacceptable, cannot be tolerated, cannot be sanctioned and ought to be punished,” she said.
De Lima said the investigation would try to find out who were on the video, including the police officer killed and the one who shot him.
“First, we need to authenticate, verify, validate the authenticity of the video and the incident that is being shown. If that is authenticated or validated, then certainly that will be evidentiary,” she said.
“We have to establish. . . who shot him and from which organization [the shooter is]. Is he [from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) or from a private armed group]?” she said.
The DOJ and the NBI are investigating the Mamasapano clash, working on a two-month timetable to identify who should be held accountable for the deadly incident that has thrown into doubt the completion of the peace process between the government and the MILF.
MILF to investigate
Von Al Haq, military chief of the MILF, said he had seen the video.
“Reports like this will be included in the investigation,” he said, referring to the MILF investigation of the Mamasapano clash.
Al Haq said the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the military arm of the MILF, strictly followed rules of engagements.
Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said he had seen the video but could not tell if the shooter was an MILF fighter, as only the shooter’s hand and the gun were visible.
Jaafar also could not say whether the gunman belonged to the BIFF.
Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson for the BIFF, said “no one can really prove what specific group did that.”
“That will be very difficult,” Mama told the Inquirer.
He said the BIFF did not allow the execution or mutilation of combatants.
“Islam prohibits that. We should respect the rights of prisoners. But sometimes bad things happen on the ground,” he said.
The video was discussed but not played back at the opening hearing of a House of Representatives inquiry into the Mamasapano clash on Wednesday.
The Philippine National Police appealed to netizens to refrain from further circulating the video.
“This is a free country and we can’t prevent or ban the sharing of information. We can’t order netizens what to do. But personally, if it’s true that it shows the SAF, it’s disrespectful and disturbing. So if possible, please stop sharing the video,” Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., spokesperson for the PNP, said in an interview yesterday.
The PNP Police Community Relations Group also posted a message on its Twitter account, saying: “We appeal to our netizens to pls refrain from posting an alleged actual video on Mamasapano incident circulating. Thank you.”
“Viewing the video is painful, even for those who didn’t know [the 44 slain SAF commandos]. What more for their families?” Cerbo said.
“As it is, the video is graphic and gory. It is saddening and disturbing. Our concern is if that really is one of our men, what would the effect be, to the family, once it’s confirmed?” he added.
Cerbo said he could not identify the policeman on the video, as the video was “still subject to evaluation, scrutiny and technical investigation.”
“It will be [submitted to] the [Board of Inquiry] (BOI) investigation, and the BOI will release [an] official reaction once [validation is] completed,” he said.
Executed by MILF
The military said on Wednesday that the video was proof that the 44 SAF commandos were executed by MILF guerrillas.
Lt. Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said all peace-loving people should condemn the execution of the wounded, defenseless policemen.
Padilla urged the public to respect the grief of the families of the slain commandos by not spreading speculation that would add to their pain.
“As responsible citizens, our curiosity must not get the better of us but should compel us to realize the great sacrifice that your men in uniform have been experiencing in ensuring the peace and security of our land,” he said.
Conflict rules violation
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the contents of the video showed a violation of the international humanitarian law or the rules on armed conflict.
Marc Cebreros, spokesperson for the CHR, said the commission saw the video after a group of policemen from Ilocos Sur province posted a copy on the CHR’s Facebook page on Tuesday night.
Cebreros urged whoever had the original video to come forward to authenticate it, otherwise it could not be used as evidence.
“If authentic, there is a violation of the humanitarian law. Under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is the duty of combatants to care for sick and wounded [enemies]. And giving no quarter is a violation of humanitarian law,” he said. With reports from Donna Z. Pazzibugan, Cynthia D. Balana and Jaymee T. Gamil in Manila; Allan Nawal, Karlos Manlupig and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao; and Rachel Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas