Dismissed police officer Wilfredo Gonzales apologized before the Senate for the road rage incident involving him and cyclist Allan Bandiola, claiming he was only defending himself. Yet, the viral video of the incident told a different story, as Gonzales could be seen chasing down Bandiola with his car, hitting him on the head, and then drawing and cocking his gun.

Gonzales’s apology is a classic example of “the non-apology apology,” one that is full of excuses, justifications and exculpatory statements that do little to take responsibility for one’s actions.

In fact, he had a lot of practice playing the victim card — appearing in “pal” Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III’s press conference and the “exclusive” TV interview that detailed his litany of ailments and his being old.

What is especially troubling about Gonzales’s action and his laying the blame on Bandiola is that having retired as a police officer, he should have held himself to a higher standard of conduct. But then again, while he claimed he had been exonerated in some earlier cases that led to several demotions, Gonzales was ultimately dismissed after his retirement. His lump sum benefit is now the subject of a recall by the police.

That may explain that, yes. We can be glad, though, that this event has resulted in one less gun-toter, who was quick to draw a firearm just because his car was struck with a hand and his ego was bruised by a purported dirty finger aimed his way. Gonzales has no business having a gun, and it was only proper that his license to have one was revoked by the Philippine National Police.

We shudder at the thought, however, of how he must have been in uniform. As Gonzales took the Senate stage to deliver his half-baked mea culpa, what we witnessed instead of a heartfelt apology was a master class in the art of doublespeak.  The ex-cop appeared less sorry for his actions and more sorry for having been caught on video that was shared in the digital echo chambers of social media.

Gonzales described Bandiola as a provocateur, wielding a menacing glove with hardened knuckles that the video, as pointed out by Senators JV Ejercito and Ronald Dela Rosa, tended to belie. There are broader implications here for our society, and we cannot just say, “It’s a wrap,” and move on to the next tragi-comedy.

Gonzales’s appearance before the Senate confirmed a shocking lack of emotional stability in someone entrusted with a gun. It raised the alarming question of how such individuals manage to slip through the police system of vetting gun license applicants.

His justification for chasing down a cyclist with his car, assaulting him, and drawing a gun on him exposed a profoundly entrenched and flawed police mentality that allows for the use of lethal force even in the absence of justification.

This mentality is symptomatic of a larger issue within our law enforcement agencies. We are reminded of that recent tragedy involving the Navotas police, who fatally shot a teenager without any evidence the young man was armed.

The chilling similarity between these two incidents highlights a systemic problem within our police force — a disregard for the principles of proportionality and de-escalation. As such, it is a must for the PNP to initiate a comprehensive retraining program for all officers, focusing on the concept of “force continuum.”

This concept, which seems alien to our police officers, outlines the appropriate levels of force that may be used in response to various situations. From mere officer presence to the use of lethal force, the continuum is meant to guide cops in making informed decisions while minimizing risks to all parties involved.

The force continuum reminds officers to consider factors such as the severity of the threat, the presence of weapons, and the safety of both themselves and the public. It emphasizes the need for proportionality and the use of force as a last resort.

In this era of viral videos and social media scrutiny, let us remember that the camera may capture the drama. Still, proper accountability demands more than a performance, as we sadly see in congressional investigations that rarely result in substantive legislation being passed.

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