Senator Joel Villanueva on Saturday, February 27, expressed his dismay over how law enforcers handled civilians in the recent clash between personnel the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
In a statement, he said innocent workers and civilians could have been hurt in the alleged “misencounter” between policemen and anti-drug operatives in Quezon City last February 24.
“Hindi po natin basta-basta maaaring ipagkibit-balikat ang insidenteng ito dahil tila may naging kapabayaan sa ating mga law enforcement agencies. Karamihan po sa mga naipit sa gitna ng putukan ay mga ordinaryong manggagawa na nagsusumikap sa hirap ng ating buhay ngayong may pandemya (We cannot just ignore this incident because there seems to be negligence on the part of our law enforcement agencies. Most of those caught between the gun fight are ordinary citizens who were just working to alleviate their difficulties during the pandemic),” the chairman of the Senate labor committee said.
Villanueva particularly mentioned the viral video clip that showed officers from the PNP’s Special Weapons and Tactics pointing their rifles at civilians in fastfood restaurant as they search for PDEA agents in the group.
A pregnant woman was heard crying for calm and a drink of water, saying: “Baka duguin ako, sir (I might bleed, Sir).”
While they told the frantic civilians to relax and not to worry, the police officers kept shouting as they told them to put their hand above their head.
“Isipin po natin kung isa tayo sa mga nasa silid na iyon. Pumasok ka lang sa trabaho o kaya naman ay pumunta ka lang doon para bumili ng burger para sa anak mo, tapos biglang ganoon ang mangyayari. Kinabukasan, malalaman mo na may nagkalituhan lang pala sa gobyerno (Imagine if we are one of the people in that room. You just went to work or entered the fastfood to buy some burger for your child, and that’s what happens. And then you would learn on the next day that it was only due to confusion between government forces).”
“Ano, sorry na lang po ba ‘yon sa abala? (What, will that just be addressed by a simple ‘sorry for the inconvenience’)?” Villanueva pointed out.
“Tinatrabaho po natin dito ang paggawa ng mga batas para protektahan ang ating mga manggagawa, kaya po nakakapanlumo na makakita ng mga crew at sibilyan na tinututukan ng baril at sinisigawan ng mga taong dapat ay kasangga natin sa pagprotekta sa kanila (We worked hard to pass laws protecting our workers, so it’s depressing to see service crew and civilians being intimidated with guns and be shouted at by people who were supposed to protect them),” he lamented.
Villanueva said he supports the upcoming inquiry of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee on the incident, saying it should establish a precise timeline of events to determine where the fault occurred and what measure must be done to prevent another incident.
“We have two former PNP chiefs to comb through the details of the law enforcement aspect, and determine what went wrong. Our foremost concern is the welfare of our ordinary kababayans (countryment). Any legitimate law enforcement operations should not place civilians in grave danger,” he said.