By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) found itself on a defensive stance Wednesday after a social media post showing men in civilian clothes trying to apprehend a suspected drug personality in Zambales quickly went viral for alleged irregularities.
In a 3:03-minute long video posted by a certain Justine Josue Alquetra, who claimed to be a teacher, at least two men in street clothes were seen trying to take custody of the suspected drug personality from an older man and women, who later turned out to be his parents.
Alquetra claimed that the men in the video were police officers as they tried apprehending his cousin without an arrest warrant and without being in proper uniform.
"Ganito ba dapat ang ginagawa ng mga kapulisan natin??! Manghuhuli na lang basta basta ng walang warrant of arrest?? Mga naka-civilian attire sila (Is this what our police officers should do?! They would implement an arrest without a warrant? They are in civilian attire)," Alquetra said.
"Pilit naming tinatanong ano kasalanan walang sumasagot sa kanila at pilit nilang sinasama sa police station! 'Yong ibang kasama nakatakip pa ang mga mukha! (We were asking them what's the offense but they refused to answer and they were forcing him to go with them in the police station! The other have their face hidden)," she added.
The viral video which was posted at 11:58 a.m. Sunday, March 3, has already garnered 793,405 views; 4,000 likes; 5,500 comments and 15,944 shares as of this writing.
Some social media users quickly expressed fear that the operation was done for the police to reach what they described as "quota."
When the drug war was launched in 2016, there were allegations that cops were maintaining a quota or minimum number of arrested drug suspects per day, but this had been denied by then PNP chief, Ronald dela Rosa.
Who are they?
Upon inquiry, Police Colonel Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, admitted that the men in the viral video were elements of San Antonio Police Station in Zambales.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Banac said that the policemen, led by Master Sergeant Precy Mirabelles and Patrolman John Asinas, were conducting a surveillance operation against a target suspect identified as Joel Villanueva, of Purok 3, Brgy. East Dirita, San Antonio, Zambales.
The operation was conducted around 11:25 a.m. Sunday, he said.
"Ang mga pulis ay gumagawa ng legitimate surveillance at gathering of information at nagkataon na 'yong target na nakita roon ay nasalubong ng mga pulis natin. 'Yong suspected pusher ay kaagad na nanlaban, tinulak at sinipa 'yong pulis at saka tumakas papasok sa compound nila," Banac said.
(The cops were conducting a legitimate surveillance and information gathering when they chanced upon the target. The suspected pusher pushed and kicked one police officer and ran to their compound.)
Banac said that after Villanueva kicked Asinas, he grabbed a pointed steel object, and tried to stab him. Luckily, the police officer managed to parry the attack until Villanueva started running.
"Ang naabutan sa video ay 'yong hinahabol na siya ng mga pulis dahil in-assault niya ang isang kasamahan natin. Pagdating sa loob ay hinuhuli na siya sa salang pag-assault sa pulis kaya ang naabutan lang ng video ay yung aktwal na... subalit dahil ikinanlong siya ng mga kamag-anak ay umatras ang mga pulis natin," he added.
(What was caught in the video was the cops running after the after he assaulted one of our men. When the police reached the compound, they were arresting the suspect for assault but he was already protected by his relatives so the cops backed off.)
The assaulted cop then went back to the police station and asked for back-up. However, when they returned, the suspect was already gone.
The older man and woman who were protecting Villanueva turned out to be his parents. They were identified as Teresa and Boy, both residents of Purok 3, Brgy. East Dirita.
Banac said that the police officers did not commit any violation during the conduct of surveillance.
"Hindi sila naka-uniporme pero sila ay inotorisa ng ating pulis doon para magmanman dahil kapag naka-uniporme ay mahirap manmanan ang suspek (They were not wearing their uniform but they were authorized by the to go undercover because it would be difficult for them to spy on the suspect if they were on uniform)," he explained.
As to the face masks, Banac stressed that the police officer was part of the back-up team and he only hid his face because he wanted to protect his identity.
"Nakita na niya na nagvi-video ang mga kamag-anak so tinakpan na niya dahil gusto niya protektahan 'yong sarili niya na 'wag siya mag-viral sa internet. 'Yon ang kanyang paliwanag (He saw that the relatives were taking a video and he wanted to protect himself from going viral in the internet. That's his explanation)," the PNP spokesperson said.
Banac also maintained that the police officers told Villanueva's parents the suspect would be arrested for assaulting a cop. This is contrary to the claims of the suspect's relatives that they were asking the cops why Villanueva was being arrested but they couldn't say anything.
"Sinabi nila actually na in-assault yung pulis natin (They actually said that one of our cops was assaulted)," Banac said.
Banac said a manhunt operation has been conducted against Villanueva. A case for assault on a police officer will be filed against him, aside from the potential drug charges if it is confirmed that he's engaged in illegal drug activities.
Meanwhile, a case for obstruction of justice was filed against Villanueva's parents for meddling with the arrest of their son.