MANILA (4th UPDATE) — A gunfight ensued near a mall on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City early evening Wednesday, with initial reports of injuries among those involved.
The shooting sent bystanders scampering for safety and halted traffic on the major thoroughfare.
It was later revealed that the gunfight happened between members of the Quezon City Police District and and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said two cops died in the incident, while another cop is 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 are still investigating why there was an encounter between the PNP and PDEA.
"Mayroon naman silang pre-ops in coordination with PDEA. So 'yung QCPD ang lakad nila is authorized naman. Kung paano nangyari, 'yun 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 'yung nagbuy-bust, kung sino 'yung ka-buy bust, 'yun po 'yung iimbestigahan natin," Danao added.
(This is a legitimate anti-drugs operations. So we are investigating who was buying, and who they were transacting with.)
Sen. Richard Gordon, also head of the Philippine Red Cross, said the shooting happened near an overpass fronting a mall, with at least two police officers reportedly hurt.
"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.
In a statement, Ever Gotesco mall said shoppers were safe inside its premises as the shooting went on and asked the public to avoid 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.
"Our priority right now is to ensure the safety of the employees and the public. The management is closely coordinating with the PNP of the current situation. Please bear with us as we allow the authorities to handle the situation. For now, we hope for everyone’s cooperation to exercise caution in sharing unconfirmed information online," it said.
In videos captured by ABS-CBN News, bystanders could be seen seeking safety as gunshots could be heard in the background.
Just before 8 p.m., an ambulance was seen arriving at the scene while heavily-armed police officers remained in the area.
— with reports from Mark Demayo, and Wheng Hidalgo, ABS-CBN News