MANILA, Philippines — When gunshots rang out in Fabian Compound, Muntinlupa City, on the evening of Oct. 7, 10-year-old Heart Macapagal started running for home, straight from a neighboring sari-sari store.
But steps away from her front door and her anxious mother, a stray bullet caught the child in the neck. After three days in the intensive care unit, Heart passed away in the city hospital on Friday.
The bullet came from a firefight that suddenly broke out on her home street, between members of the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group on a questionable operation against a carjacking suspect, and a resident Muntinlupa policeman who mistook the plainclothes patrollers for the bad guys.
Heart is the third of the fatalities in the encounter, which included Highway Patrol Group (HPG) member, SPO1 Macario Romano, who was buried in Nueva Ecija on Sunday, and carjacking suspect Michael Maranan, whose wake is also ongoing in Fabian Compound.
Four others were also wounded in the firefight: an HPG member, SPO1 Aniceto Santiago; Muntinlupa Police Officer 3 Mersar Rapirap; Maranan’s sister Anna Loraine; and resident Aileen Duran.
Santiago and Duran remain hospitalized. Duran underwent surgery on her leg on Sunday evening, while Santiago remained in critical condition, as of Monday, because a bullet hit his spine, Senior Supt. Roque Vega, the Muntinlupa city police chief, said on Monday.
Surprisingly, despite the injustice of Heart’s death, the Macapagal family chose to drop the reckless imprudence with homicide charges they were planning against the HPG, Vega said.
“Nobody wanted it to happen. [The HPG] also suffered one member dead. Another is in critical condition. They are up to God now,” Heart’s uncle, Jay, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday at Heart’s wake.
The Maranan family, on the other hand, is determined to seek justice for their slain kin. They already filed a murder charge against Santiago at the city fiscal’s office, Vega said.
“They feel there was a premeditated intent to kill [Maranan]. He was unarmed, so the [HPG members] were using excessive force,” Vega explained.
Previously, Vega told the Inquirer that witnesses saw Santiago and Romano, wearing civilian clothes and not identifying themselves, all of a sudden open fire on Maranan at around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 7.
Jay told the Inquirer that their neighbors saw Rapirap talking with Maranan, his childhood friend, when the shots were fired. Rapirap returned fire, mistaking the HPG members for criminals.
Jay said Fabian Compound was an otherwise “peaceful area” and that the community had never experienced such violence in his time. Maranan was just known as a neighborhood mechanic, whose parents lived in the area.
Vega earlier said investigators have been looking into a breach of the standard operation procedures by the HPG members.
Vega said Santiago and Romano were never assigned to do field work.
So far, no complaints have been filed against Rapirap, Vega said. Vega said there would be no administrative charge either because “He did nothing wrong.”
Muntinlupa public information officer Tez Navarro told the Inquirer the HPG has been helping foot the bill for Heart’s funeral and burial, while the city government took care of her hospital expenses.
Heart will be buried at the Everest Hills Memorial Park cemetery in Muntinlupa on Oct. 16, Wednesday, 10 a.m.