Four individuals were killed when enforcers of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign fired at each other in Quezon City on February 24, 2021. The reason: failure to coordinate.
The Senate has since launched an investigation into the supposed “misencounter” between operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), whose main office, ironically, is within the police’s national headquarters in Camp Crame.
So far, there has been a push for the PNP and PDEA to streamline their operations and strengthen coordination with each other.
Below is a timeline of events leading up to the “misencounter” and the things that happened after.
January 15, 2021
The Quezon City Police District-District Special Operating Unit (QCPD-DSOU) arrests Jonaire “Mama Jo” Decena in Payatas through a warrant issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 228 for a drug-related offense.
Mama Jo is a PNP informant and a drug dealer, according to the initial investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Between January 16 and February 22, 2021
Mama Jo is detained at the QCPD Detention Center, where police officer Christopher Alvarez becomes her handler. Alvarez also handles Mama Jo’s phone to check if there are any private calls that can be used as a lead for possible anti-drug operations.
In one instance, Mama Jo borrows her phone and calls a certain “Red.” Mama Jo and Red have a transaction, where Mama Jo orders 500 grams of methamphetamine or shabu. The transaction pushes through and Mama Jo receives her order.
However, Red asks for an additional P61,000 (around $1,279) as Mama Jo’s balance for the transaction. Mama Jo insists she won’t be paying the balance because of the poor quality of the drugs. She says she wants to return the contraband.
February 23, 2021
The police have an operation in Baclaran, Parañaque City, on February 23 against Omar Kassan, another drug dealer. This is pre-arranged by Mama Jo.
Omar Kassan is represented by his brother “Mark.” Mark is in contact with Mama Jo in the entire operation.
However, Mark calls off that operation because he suspects he is dealing with cops. After that incident, the cops write a coordination letter to the PNP, which states that they will have another operation in Litex, Quezon City, on February 24.
February 24, 2021
On the evening of February 24, the PDEA is set to conduct an operation against a certain “Manisan” in Quiapo, Manila. However, the operation is scrapped because Manisan gets a hint it is going to be a buy-bust operation.
While the PDEA is on its way back to its base, Utong Matalnas, their informant, says they have another operation in Litex, Quezon City.
PDEA approves the rushed operation, unaware that the police will also be conducting an operation in the area.
PDEA’s vehicle overheats, forcing them to stop over outside a food chain in Commonwealth, Quezon City. At around 6 pm, gunshots are heard in the parking lot of the mall, shortly after the transaction started, according to the PNP.
Some cops assigned near the area respond and rain gunshots on the other team, which is from PDEA. Responding QCPD policemen also call nearby cops in the Batasan and Payatas police stations for back-up.
The gunshots stop after PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva tells Metro Manila police director, Police Brigadier General Vicente Danao, that the other team is from PDEA. Danao calls QCPD Chief Police Brigadier General Danilo Macerin to inform him that the QCPD is clashing with PDEA agents.
The PNP is expecting Untong, PDEA’s informant, to sell illegal drugs. However, PDEA is expecting Mama Jo, PNP’s informant, to return the drugs she acquired from Red.
The exchange kills two cops, a PDEA agent, and an informant.
February 25, 2021
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), which oversees the QCPD, says on February 25 that a “sell-bust” could have caused the incident. A sell-bust is an operation where law enforcers pose as drug sellers to nab a drug dealer.
On the same day, the PNP and PDEA say they are holding a joint probe into the incident, to be led by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The NBI and the House of Representatives launch their own investigations.
PNP and PDEA confirm four casualties. Both agencies also insist they followed standard protocols on operations.
Both agencies also say they are “clueless” about the reason behind the mishap. The PNP and PDEA cannot give details regarding the incident.
May 14, 2021
The PNP and PDEA figure in another near-misencounter during a buy-bust operation in a Quezon City mall. This is due to “miscommunication,” according to the police.
A shootout is avoided because the authorities immediately recognize each other.
May 15, 2021
Newly-installed PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar and PDEA Director General Villanueva meet to determine the reason behind the frequent miscommunication between their agencies.
May 17, 2021
The PNP announces it has crafted the unified guidelines and protocols with PDEA, which the units will follow during anti-illegal drug operations.
The guidelines aim to establish better communication and coordination procedures between the PNP and PDEA in conducting anti-drug operations in specific areas.
May 24, 2021
The February misencounter and the recent near misencounter prompt the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to hold a hearing on May 24.
During the hearing, PDEA’s Villanueva blames the PNP and says the latter’s lapses led to the incident.
Villanueva adds that the police should have followed the standard procedures, even though it was PDEA which organized the operation at the last minute, according to the NBI. – Rappler.com