MANILA (4th UPDATE) - Two police officers were killed while several others were wounded in a shootout between members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) anti-illegal drug operatives and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents near a mall on Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City on Wednesday.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said 2 cops died in the incident while another cop was in critical condition.
Three PDEA operatives were also wounded in the incident, Danao said.
In a statement, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said a joint PNP-PDEA team will be formed to look into the incident.
"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 coordinations they have long firmed up in the fight against illegal drugs," he said.
Danao also said both operations were legitimate, and they were still investigating why there was an encounter between the PNP and PDEA.
"Mayroon naman silang pre-ops in coordination with PDEA. So 'yong QCPD ang lakad nila is authorized naman. Kung paano nangyari, 'yon pa ang iimbestigahan natin," he said.
(They had pre-ops coordination with PDEA. The QCPD operation was authorized. We are still investigating what happened.)
"This is a legitimate anti-drugs operation. So kung sino 'yong nagbuy-bust, kung sino 'yong ka-buy bust, 'yon po 'yong iimbestigahan natin," Danao added.
(This is a legitimate anti-drugs operations. So we are investigating who was buying and who they were transacting with.)
According to Danao, the exchange of gunfire stopped after PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva called to inform him that the ones involved in the shootout were PDEA operatives.
He then called the district director of the Quezon City Police and told him about it.
Danao expressed sadness at what happened and reminded all law enforcement teams to properly coordinate with each other before launching operations.
"This unfortunate incident really happens kaya nga sabi ko nga paulit-ulit sa mga tropa na whenever they conduct operations like this, they should always coordinate with the nearest operation unit, to include 'yong PDEA," he said.
(This unfortunate incident really happens, that's why I always tell the troops that whenever they conduct operations like this, to always coordinate with the nearest operation unit, to include PDEA.)
"It is very unfortunate na nagkaroon ng misencounter on both sides," Danao added.
(It is very unfortunate that a misencounter happened on both sides.)
Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross, said the shooting happened near an overpass fronting a mall.
"We already coordinated with QC Police Stations 5 & 6 and dispatched medic team to provide immediate assistance. Keep safe everyone," he said in a tweet.
The Red Cross said 2 wounded victims were brought to the East Avenue Medical Center.
Several members of the PDEA went to the hospital. Members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team were also deployed.
Hospital authorities have yet to give updates on the condition of the wounded victims.
'SHOPPERS ARE SAFE'
In a statement, Ever Gotesco mall said shoppers were safe inside its premises as the shooting went on and asked the public not to share unconfirmed information online.
"We have confirmed reports of a shootout that happened earlier outside of Ever Commonwealth. We have secured all access to the mall so all shoppers are safe inside," it said.
Shoppers were kept in the dark during the ordeal, said "Inna," a customer who was trapped in the mall's department store along with 20 others.
"Nakita ko lang po may staff tumatakbo papuntang likod ng department store...Sabi po nila may nagbabarilan daw po. Yung department store po nilock po nila yung kanilang roll-up, wala po kaming balita from the management kung ano ang nangyayari. Kumukha lang po kami ng balita sa mga tao sa labas," she told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo on Thursday.
(I saw staff run towards the back of the department store...They said there was a gunfight. The department store's roll-up was locked, we had no news from the management what was happening. We were only getting information from people outside the mall.)
"'Yong kasamahan kong ibang customers, nangangapa din po sila, bakit di kami makalabas, anong nangyayari."
(Other customers were also wondering what was happening, why we can't leave.)
A mall personnel eventually said they were allowed to leave the department store, Inna said.
BOARD OF INQUIRY
The police said a bilateral board of inquiry would be established to determine what transpired and who should be held liable.
The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will lead the investigation and Danao was designated as the official spokesman on the incident.
Both camps earlier said they were conducting legitimate operations. Initial police reports showed there were 20 PDEA agents involved in the incident and 2 teams from the police force.
The gunfight erupted past 6 p.m. and lasted for 20 minutes, the police added. No civilian was hurt.
The Department of Justice also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel investigation on the supposed misencounter between police and anti-narcotics agents.
Despite what happened, Usana assured the public the incident would not affect the 2 institutions' campaign against illegal drugs.
- With reports from Jeffrey Hernaez, Wheng Hidalgo and Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News