Ex-cop in road rage clip stripped of gun license
MANILA, Philippines — A dismissed police officer identified in a “road rage” video as the motorist who hit a cyclist on the head and brandished a gun at him has been stripped of his firearm license, the Philippine National Police said on Monday, August 28, 2023.
Wilfredo “Willie” Gonzales, who was also demoted before his dismissal in 2018, was also directed by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to explain why he was driving a vehicle not registered in his name.
In a statement on Monday, the PNP’s Civil Security Group (CSG) said the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) has issued an order revoking the License to Own and Possess Firearms, Firearm Registration and Permit To Carry Firearms Outside Residence of an “individual who [brandished] his firearm [in an altercation with] an unarmed cyclist near Welcome Rotunda on Aug. 8, 2023.”
The incident the CSG was referring to was captured in a video that had gone viral on social media, showing a cyclist tottering alongside a red Kia Rio sedan that had been on the bicycle lane, as its motorist stepped out, smacked and cursed at the cyclist, then took out his firearm.
At that point, the video taken by another motorist in that incident ends, with the phone camera directed away from that scene.
Gonzales, 63, was presented by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) in a press conference on Sunday at Camp Karingal, its headquarters.
Explaining his side, Gonzales acknowledged that he erred in pulling out his firearm but emphasized that he never pointed the weapon at the cyclist. He also said that both of them had settled their differences.
QCPD chief Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III, sitting next to Gonzales, appealed for “compassion” and asked the public to “stop crucifying” Gonzales.
Yet on Monday, not only were the documents on Gonzales’ firearms voided, but the FEO also confiscated those weapons, including three .45-caliber handguns and one 9-millimeter pistol.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo also disclosed on Monday that Gonzales was a dismissed police officer who was removed in 2018, although he had retired three years earlier.
In an interview with dzRH, she explained that a case was filed against Gonzales in 2008 which led to his demotion and ultimately his dismissal, with his retirement benefits canceled.
The PNP chief, Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., himself also issued a statement on Monday, saying: “Let this incident serve as a clear reminder that owning a firearm is a privilege that demands adherence to the law and the highest ethical standards. We urge all gun owners to reflect on their responsibilities and ensure that their actions consistently reflect the values of respect, accountability and security.”
In a statement, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte assured the cyclist, who remains unidentified, that the city government would pursue a case against Gonzales.
She also ordered an investigation into the QCPD’s role in Gonzales’ claim that he and the cyclist had come to a settlement.
Lawyer and biking advocate Raymond Fortun said he would push through with pursuing charges against Gonzales.
Posting on social media, he said the cyclist was coerced into signing an agreement with Gonzales and was even obliged to pay P500 for the scratch on the dismissed cop’s vehicle.
“The actions we are taking are intended to serve as a deterrent for those similarly minded as the ex-cop who would brazenly pull out a gun to threaten an unarmed cyclist,” he said in a message when reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the LTO said it had set an inquiry on Aug. 31 and ordered the appearance of Gonzales and the registered owner of the vehicle that he was using on Aug. 8.
LTO chief Vigor Mendoza II said his agency was looking into two possible violations of Republic Act No. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, in particular, Section 27 on “Improper Person to Operate a Vehicle” and Section 48 on reckless driving.
Human rights advocates criticized the QCPD for allowing its own headquarters to be used as Gonzales’ forum to defend himself.
“Is this really the extent of entitlement of police, both retired and active, that they are given the privilege of a press conference in no less than PNP offices, organized by their own colleagues, while the victim is left to fend for himself?” human rights lawyer and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said in a statement.
“An offense has been committed. Even if the complainant is scared to file, this is not a reason not to file any case,” he added.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the QCPD’s press conference with Gonzales “shows the deep-seated climate of impunity [which] discourages victims from pursuing accountability.”
—WITH REPORTS FROM KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND JANE BAUTISTA
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