President Rodrigo Duterte vowed justice to victims of a controversial shootout, which left two policemen dead, in Quezon City between Philippine National Police anti-illegal drug operatives and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Malacañang said.
The presidential commitment came as Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation would conduct its own investigation, separate from the probes being mulled by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Dangerous Drugs is considering a legislative investigation following the shootout in the Ever Gotesco Commonwealth area Wednesday night.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order, said he would also conduct a Senate investigation, while Senator Risa Hontiveros is set to file a resolution for the conduct of a Senate inquiry on the matter.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President ordered a deep investigation to uncover the truth in the deadly shooting.
“The President of course expressed both sadness and concern why the shootout between government personnel happened,” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday.
“The President has assured us...we will get to the bottom of this incident. There will be an impartial investigation and justice will be done,” Roque said.
“We are confident that with PNP and PDEA forming an investigation panel, and the Justice Secretary ordering the NBI to conduct its own parallel investigation, we will know the truth behind this incident and justice will be done,” he said.
Both camps claimed they were holding a legitimate anti-drug operation in the area.
Guevarra told reporters in a text message: “I have ordered the NBI to conduct a parallel investigation on the alleged misencounter between PNP anti-illegal drug operatives and PDEA agents at Commonwealth Avenue.
“This is separate and distinct from the probe to be conducted by an ad hoc joint PNP-PDEA Board of Inquiry earlier announced by PNP chief Debold Sinas.”
The joint PNP-PDEA Board of Inquiry was created by Sinas to look into the details surrounding the incident that left two police officers dead and several others wounded.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) will be the lead investigating body of the joint probe while National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director, Maj. Gen.
Vicente Danao Jr. has been designated to speak on any updates from the PNP to keep the public informed of accurate and relevant information.
Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said: “Both police and PDEA claim their respective anti-drug operations in Ever Gotesco Wednesday are legitimate.”
If this is so, Barbers said, there could be no firefight as there should be coordination between them as required under Section 86 of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) before any legitimate anti-drug operation could be carried out.
Under this section, Barbers said the police should properly coordinate with PDEA but it appeared that the police did not.
Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo backed Barbers’ call for a congressional inquiry into what she described as the deadly “misencounter” in her district between operatives of the QC police and the PDEA .
Castelo said her proposed inquiry in aid of legislation would focus “on the adequacy or inadequacy of the law.
She said the law provided that the PDEA “shall be the lead agency in the enforcement of the Act, while the PNP, NBI and other law enforcement agencies shall continue to conduct anti-drug operations in support of the PDEA, provided that the said agencies shall, as far as practicable, coordinate with the PDEA prior to anti-drug operations.”
“Is the provision on coordination clear enough for our law enforcers to avoid incidents such as what happened in my district on Wednesday? Does Congress have to make it clearer by for instance requiring agencies to disclose the details of their intended anti-drug operations?” Castelo asked.
She noted the statements of PNP and PDEA officials that both their operations near the Commonwealth Avenue mall were “legitimate,” and that the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) coordinated with the PDEA.
“So why the misencounter? Were the two groups unaware that they would operate in the same area or place? And why did it take so long to stop the gunfight if there was prior coordination? These are additional questions we would like answered,” she said.
She stressed that the alleged misencounter and the resulting loss of life and injuries “were totally preventable.”
Castelo added that the incident put at risk the lives of motorists, pedestrians, patrons of the establishment and the nearby mall where it happened, and residents in the area.
Meanwhile, Barbers said “the presence of high-ranking police officers in this alleged uncoordinated buy-bust was another suspicious angle that we want to investigate. This adds to the irregularity in the total scenario.”
Hontiveros herself said“We need to look into this further. It is very alarming that this is not the first time that such a ‘misencounter’ has happened.”
She said the National Capital Region Police Office did admit that this has happened numerous times.
“These ‘misencounters’ should be rare, not common,” Hontiveros added.
The shooting incident occurred along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, killing two policemen. According to the Quezon City Police District Station 6, the QCPD’s District Special Operations Unit conducted a buy-bust operation near Ever Gotesco Mall.
However, the DSOU officers were not aware that they were transacting with PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service agents.
“How could this have happened, at all, in the first place? Why did the shootout take place for as long as an hour? Was it not possible to clarify matters even within the first few minutes, that a misencounter breaks out?” the senator asked.
“There was a dramatic lack of coordination between the PNP and PDEA.
Someone somewhere must have been grossly negligent. They had huge intelligence funds, but look what happened?” said Hontiveros.
She cited that for the year 2021, the PNP has an intelligence fund of P856 million while PDEA has P500 million.
Hontiveros also hoped that the Board of Inquiry formed by the PNP would get to the bottom of what happened.
She said the Board of Inquiry would have to tell the public the full and true story as they could discover it, including legitimate anti-drug operation or buy bust operation.
“Who are they? All those details are needed just to put the public’s mind and heart at rest about the very dramatic and traumatic ‘misencounter’ that happened last night,” Hontiveros added.
In a related development, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte urged residents to stop spreading fake news on social media regarding the shootout.
She called netizens to stop sowing fear and confusion among those who would read or view fake information about the incident.
“For the safety of all, avoid the place while investigation is still ongoing,” she said. With Rio N. Araja
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