No 'sell-bust' in Quezon City shootout, PDEA chief says

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2021 11:20 PM

Police respond to a shooting incident in Quezon City on February 24, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Thursday said that there was no "sell-bust" involved in the shootout in Quezon City between PDEA agents and the police's anti-illegal drug operatives. 

In a joint forum with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Thursday, PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva said sell-busts are illegal. 

In a sell-bust, authorities pretend to sell drugs to target people who are buying illegal drugs. However, this is against the law, according to the PDEA chief.

"Hindi legal 'yan. Legal lang sa anti-drug operations ay buy-bust, illegal ang sell-bust," a fuming Villanueva told the media.

He maintained that the operations of both law enforcement agencies were legitimate. 

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"Nag-interview na agad kayo (media), tapos ang sabi sa isang banda buy-bust sila, ang nangyari sell-bust agad kami dahil hindi kami nagsasalita. Hindi nga kami nagsasalita nga because of this board of inquiry," the official said.

(You already interviewed and the other side said they were conducting a buy-bust operation, because of that we were accused as conducting sell-busts because we did not talk about it. We did not want to talk on the matter due to this board of inquiry.) 

House Committee on Dangerous Drugs Chair Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep, Ace Barbers earlier in the day sought a congressional inquiry on the incident, and said the lawmakers would look into an alleged "sell-bust" angle. 

"PDEA seems engaged in or conducting a 'sell-bust.' If this is so, PDEA's sell-bust operation is not legal because it borders on the illegal act of instigation and drug selling or trafficking," Barbers said in a statement. 

But Villanueva said sell-busts are not part of the agency's anti-illegal drug operations. 

"Wala naman sa pre-operation or anti-drug operation ang sell-bust dahil bawal yan. Buy-bust ang PNP, buy-bust ang PDEA," he said. 

(It is not part of our pre-operation because it is illegal.)

He also said there was coordination between the PNP and PDEA, but people on the ground were only known by informants through aliases in specific areas during the operation. 

The two agencies also had different targets which disappeared during the operation, according to the official.

Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas, echoed Villanueva's statement.
 
"As of now, yung target na nandiyan, na tinatrabaho natin ay unfortunately wala doon. That goes to the PNP also... we cannot divulge the names of those people," said Villanueva. 

(Our targets were not in the area during the operation.) 

"Magkaiba ang targets namin pero later on kami pala ang nagkabanggaan. That's what we want to find out... kung paano ito nangyari so we can come up with good coordination with PDEA and PNP so this incident won't happen again." 

Both law enforcement personnel are also authorized to operate in areas where anti-illegal operations are running, he said. 

"Hindi natin puwede sabihin na NCR lang ang area mo, NCR ang area nito ay hindi na puwedeng lumabas kasi baka magkabanggaan... We are doing it for so long already, na parehong NCR pero iba't ibang lugar ang tinatamaan," he explained. 

"First time itong nangyari... bakit nangyari at paano ang nangyari? Kung may kailangang baguhin sa process, babaguhin natin," he added. 

Sinas said that the 10 policemen directly involved in the operations and 7 PDEA operatives are currently being investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the joint investigating team. 

Some details on the "misencounter" remain unknown up to now, as the PNP and PDEA have refused to disclose complete information on the shootout, which has left at least 4 people dead.