By Ellson Quismorio
Police and military personnel should be trained to identify persons with mental health issues, especially in their implementation of quarantine rules.
“Yes I believe law enforcers should be trained on handling person with mental health issues,” Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte 2nd district) said in the aftermath of the killing of the Private First Class Winston Ragos at the hands of a police officer.
Barbers said that many Filipinos are psychologically “on edge” due to stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) restrictions.
“They should be given training on how to spot signs of mental illness from a person or at least determine signs or symptoms of mental imbalance at the very least,” said Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs.
Ragos, 34, had served in many armed encounters and was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was thus placed on complete disability discharge.
Last April 21, Police Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo Jr. shot and killed the soldier near a quarantine checkpoint in Barangay Pasong Putik, Quezon City.
Ragos reportedly approached the policemen manning the checkpoint and hurled invectives on them for no apparent reason. This led to a confrontation between the two, a video of which went viral on social media.
“PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) personnel, especially those in the front lines, must be trained and educated by professionals psychologists or psychiatrists for these kinds of encounters,” Barbers said.
ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Niña Taduran made a similar proposal over the weekend. “Maybe it’s time to look at the Philippine Mental Health Act because it does not cover how law enforcers should deal with people who are suffering from mental illness,” she said.
Taduran underscored how Filipinos have been “getting agitated and depressed because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation.”
Florendo has been charged with homicide while Ragos was laid to rest Sunday at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.