President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the sole agency to investigate Wednesday’s shootout in Quezon City involving members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said on Friday that with the NBI on the case, the joint inquiry announced earlier by the PNP and the PDEA will be called off.
Agents from PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service and members of the Quezon City Police District’s Special Operations Unit exchanged fire for almost an hour Wednesday in front of the Gotesco mall on Commonwealth Avenue in what appeared to be a drug bust that ended in a deadly fiasco.
Killed were two policemen, a PDEA agent and an informant. Four other people were wounded.
PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said its agents were on a “legitimate operation” when the incident happened.
Metro Manila police chief Vicente Danao Jr. described the incident as a “misencounter.”
Details of the incident were scanty, with the two enforcement agencies wary of revealing information to the media.
At the House of Representatives, the Committee on Dangerous Drugs will begin its inquiry on Monday on the shootout.
Committee Chairman Robert Ace Barbers said the incident alarmed lawmakers.
Barbers said the investigation would focus on determining if there was a need for legislation to prevent a similar incident in the future.
“Let me remind everybody that our investigation is not to prosecute but only to determine whether there is a need for a legislation — in aid of legislation — unlike the joint probe that will be conducted by the PNP and PDEA that will determine the criminal liability of the members involved in that kind of operation,” Barbers said in a TV interview on Friday.
Barbers said he wanted to know about the coordination between the PNP and PDEA, a requirement under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165) before any anti-drug operation can be carried out.
Despite the incident, Barbers said he still trusts the two institutions.
Quezon City Second District Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo called for a House inquiry into the Commonwealth shootout, as it fell on her jurisdiction.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas also supported an inquiry and sought accountability, noting that civilians were involved in the incident.
“Is this the face of President Duterte’s war on drugs? We are ready to engage on Monday for us to know, in aid of legislation, what needs to be changed in the guidelines on engagement of this kind of war on drugs campaign,” Castro said in Filipino in a press briefing on Friday.
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