Only the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will investigate the shootout between police and state anti-narcotics agents in which four men were killed Wednesday afternoon at a busy intersection in Quezon City, the Palace said Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the decision by President Rodrigo Duterte to designate the NBI as the sole agency in charge of the investigation meant the probe being undertaken jointly by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) would be discontinued.
Two policemen, a PDEA agent and an informant were killed in the gun battle that took place between two law enforcement groups Wednesday afternoon at the parking lot of a McDonald’s on Commonwealth Avenue and Don Antonio Drive.
An exclusive news report on GMA News quoted a source as claiming the Quezon City policemen were able to buy P6 million worth of shabu from the seller, who the source said was later identified as a PDEA asset.
The cops, the source said, paid P1 million in buy-bust money and the rest in fake bills.
The shootout, the source said, started when the transaction was completed, with the policeman posing as buyer and the seller sustaining at least 15 gunshot wounds each.
Meanwhile, the House dangerous drugs committee said it would begin its own investigation on March 1.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the committee chairman, said much of the information that has been released so far has been sketchy and members of the panel wanted to know why there was a firefight between two law enforcement agencies.
Deputy Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles on Friday backed calls for a congressional investigation into the incident.
“We hope the congressional investigation will determine what really happened. As it is, there are a lot of unanswered questions that could cast a shadow on the administration of justice in the country,” Nograles, vice chairman of the House committee on justice, said.
Expressing concern over the “lapses” that led to the encounter, Nograles urged law enforcement agencies to take a long hard look at their processes.
“This incident should not happen. We need to review our laws on law enforcement to prevent this incident from happening again,” the lawmaker said.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, said there was clearly a lack of proper coordination between the PNP and PDEA.
“If indeed there was proper coordination made by both camps, there was negligence in the proper dissemination of that coordination to the operating units,” said Dela Rosa, chairman of the Senate committee on public order.
He said the Senate, too, would investigate the incident starting on March 2.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said the Senate has the power and the prerogative to investigate the shootout.
“And with two ex-PNP chiefs in the chamber, I have no doubt that it will be able to uncover the truth” he said.
He said people wanted answers on why a supposedly coordinated operation ended up as “a circular firing squad.”
Also on Friday, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said she wanted to meet with officials from the Quezon City Police District, the Department of Public Order and Safety, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and other relevant agencies to discuss crowd control in encounter sites.
She underscored the need for better crowd management to avert untoward incidents, citing amateur videos of the shootout showed civilians standing near the encounter site, or a few feet away from responding police officers.
“Public safety is paramount. We need to reexamine and look for ways to better impose crowd control in dangerous scenarios where stray bullets can hit anyone, or a running gun battle can ensue. We already learned during the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis that keeping media and civilians a safe distance away from ground zero or an encounter site is very crucial,” she said.