MANILA — Malacañang on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered that only the National Bureau of Investigation should probe the deadly shootout between operatives of the police force and the anti-narcotics agency—two groups he had tasked to lead his crackdown on illegal drugs.
Two policemen, an operative of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and an informant were killed in what a top police official described as a "misencounter" near a mall on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Wednesday night. Four others were hurt.
Duterte ordered a joint panel formed by the Philippine National Police and PDEA "to discontinue their ongoing investigation," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Nagdesisyon po ang ating Presidente na tanging NBI lang po ang mag-iimbestiga doon sa putukan na nangyari sa panig ng mga kapulisan at PDEA d'yan po sa Quezon City," he said in a video message sent to reporters.
(Our President decided that only the NBI would investigate the shootout that happened between the police and PDEA there in Quezon City.)
"This is to ensure impartiality on the Quezon City shootout incident," he added in a statement.
The NBI's legal mandate is to "investigate particularly where men in uniform are involved," Roque said.
The gunfight happened on a busy thoroughfare dotted with stores, restaurants, and a pedestrian overpass. Shoppers at a mall, diners at a fast food restaurant, and people just passing scampered to safety as the shootout happened.
Initial police report revealed that members of the Quezon City Police District conducted a buy-bust operation but were unaware the people they were transacting with were PDEA agents.
Videos obtained by ABS-CBN News show that multiple gunshots rang out as civilians ran and sought safety while police officers closed in near the scene.
A man could be heard shouting, "Tigilin n'yo! (Stop that)," after 2 gunshots were fired. It was followed by "Itong tropa namin (This is our troop)."
In another video, several motorcycle riders stopped at a junction after being caught in the crossfire. They could be seen running away after hearing the series of gunshots.
The NBI has sent a forensics team to the crime scene. Investigators will send subpoenas or letters of invitation to those involved in the incident, and request documents connected to the incident, said NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin.
The bureau will comb through surveillance footage and clips from civilians, he said.
— With a report from Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News