PNP, PDEA receive heavy backlash for endangering civilians in fatal screw-up

February 25, 2021 - 2:26 PM
Ever Gotesco misencounter
Inter-agency investigators gather evidence and inspect the lifeless body found inside a van following a bungled encounter between operatives of the PNP and PDEA at a fastfood chain along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Wednesday night, Feb. 24, 2020.

The botched shootout between the police and anti-drug agents showed a lack of coordination between and intel for the law enforcement agencies.

This incident dominated conversations on social media, wherein users criticized the Philippine National Police for endangering people’s lives.

What happened on Commonwealth?

A gunfight erupted near the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City before 6 pm last night, February 24.  Reports said that it lasted nearly an hour.

Residents who live nearby expressed alarm and fear on social media for those who were within the area of the shootout.

Video clips circulating online showed shoppers, employees and other people scampering in different directions when gunshots rang out.

Writer Alfonso Manalastas shared a blurry photo where some people sought safety outside the lobby of the building where he lives.

“Shoppers and employees from Ever Gotesco commonwealth are temporarily camping out outside my building’s lobby for safety,” wrote Manalastas.

Besides causing fear, the incident also induced heavy traffic.

The PNP later confirmed that the shootout was between operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and members of the Quezon City Police District.

PDEA is the lead agency in the national government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., Metro Manila’s top cop, stated that two policemen were killed and another was in critical condition during the botched buy-bust operation. Three PDEA operatives were also wounded.

PDEA spokesperson Director Derrick Carreon, meanwhile, told reporters that the agency still has not acquired details of the encounter.

QC PDEA-PNP buy bust shootout
Photo shows PDEA personnel on the ground after a shootout with personnel of the PNP on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2020. (PNP PIO photo0

What’s certain was that the operatives were conducting a sanctioned anti-drug operation in the area, said Carreon.

Sa ngayon, isa lang po ang malinaw…na ang PDEA Special Enforcement Service ay nandoon on a legitimate operation po,” he said.

Another inter-agency lapse that cost lives

For sociology scholar Ash Presto, the bugled operation is proof that the drug problem is not the biggest threat to Filipino lives.

“Civilian safety compromised because of a shootout between the PNP and the PDEA. Some officers dead. This is a huge crack in the administration’s continuing attempt to paint the drug problem as the biggest threat to Filipinos— see, corruption & incompetence are deadlier than others,” Presto wrote.

Others questioned where the hefty budget for the government’s intelligence funds go.

“So PDEA got catfished by PNP in Ever Gotesco? Billions of Intelligence fund with but with tinder-like surveillance. Poor civilians and casualties. Kaka-NPA at red tag niyo yan. Shoot to kill mentality on the roll,” one user said.

A lawyer named Nico Quejano also lamented that the police can no longer be trusted with public safety.

“If PDEA can’t protect themselves from the PNP? If PNP can’t protect themselves from PDEA? If the Army can’t protect themselves from the PNP? Paano pa tayong simpleng mamamayan lang?” Quejano wrote.

Some users on Reddit, meanwhile, aired their frustrations in the form of witty memes. They poked fun at the possibility that the illegal drug operators whom PDEA was supposed to arrest ran scot-free.

PNP v PDEA from Philippines

Buy bust operation sa Ever from Philippines

Joint investigation

In a statement, the PNP said the incident will not affect the relationship between the organization and PDEA.

“The PNP and PDEA both agree and assure the public that the incident, while serious, will in no way affect the continuing operational relationship and coordination they have long firmed up in the fight against illegal drugs,” it said.

PNP chief Debold Sinas assigned the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate the bungled shootout and Danao to update the public about it.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel investigation.