After conducting a bungled "buy-bust operation," squads from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) engaged in a firefight near the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on Wednesday evening, February 24.
The incident marks the first shootout between the PNP and PDEA – the faces of President Rodrigo Duterte's landmark campaign against illegal drugs.
According to a sketchy report from the Batasan police station, a team of detective special operations unit (DSOU) agents conducted a buy-bust operation at around 5:45 pm at the parking lot of McDonald's beside the popular mall.
"During the buy-bust operation, the PNP personnel involved [engaged] without their knowledge [that] the people they were transacting [with] are PDEA agents," the report said.
The PNP claimed that the PDEA agents were the first to fire. During a phone interview with Rappler, PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon declined to comment on the allegation, saying that they will leave the facts to be determined by a joint PNP-PDEA probe.
The shootout left 3 policemen, two PDEA agents, and one civilian identified as a companion of the PDEA agent injured, according to the report.
In an interview on DZBB, Metro Manila police chief Major General Vicente Danao Jr said two policemen died and one was "badly injured." He was unsure about the PDEA's casualty count.
Carreon added that police confiscated the phones and weapons of the PDEA agents so they could gather information about the incident immediately.
The shooting incident caused panic in the area and on social media, as thousands of people go to that mall every day. It is also located along a major thoroughfare, Commonwealth Avenue, in Quezon City.
The shooting poses a question about whether the police and the PDEA follow their own procedures. Policemen are required to coordinate with the PDEA before launching any anti-drug operation.
In a statement, the PNP said that the joint probe will be led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – its unit reserved for high-profile investigations. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.