The drug problem in the country was in the news again last week. This time, however, the news was not about so many killed in police raids or the huge amounts of drugs seized. It was about a ”misencounter” between the men of two government agencies – the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
It seems the two groups of government men fired at each other, resulting in the death of two QC policemen, one PDEA operative, and an informant. President Duterte stopped the separate investigations by the two agencies. He designated the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to be the sole agency to probe the incident.
At the start of his administration in 2016, President Duterte launched his campaign to stop the huge drug operations in the country. Thousands were killed in the police raids. In February, 2020, the police said 5,532 had been killed in anti-drug operations since mid-2016, but human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, suspect the nationwide death toll is much higher. The victims were mostly people killed in the police raids, including some adolescents caught in the line of fire. .
Last week, four more people were killed, but this time, those killed were two policemen, one government anti-drugs agent, and one informant. There were no civilian victims, only government agents in what has been called a “misencounter.”
But former PNP chief, now Senator Ronald dela Rosa said the two agencies may have been “played” by a drug syndicate. They may have been manipulated into shooting at each other by the syndicate. There is no information about who was the drug trafficker involved.
If both government groups were indeed engaged in anti-drug operations, they should have coordinated with each other, as required by Section 8 of Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. Rep. Ace Barbers, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Dangerous Drugs, also said the reported presence of high-ranking police officers in the incident is another suspicious angle. The information given so far by the PDEA and the PNP has only raised “more questions than answers,” Barbers said.
There are indeed so many questions for which there seem to be no possible reasonable answers. The President has told the PNP and PDEA to stop their own probes and leave it to the NBI. He has also asked the Senate and the House to defer their own inquiries, and they have deferred to the President’s request, so as not to hinder the NBI probe.
We hope the NBI will get to the bottom of this incident. For this is not the usual case of accidental civilian deaths during government operations. This is a case of two government groups fighting each other in actual combat, resulting in four deaths among them. It is a dangerous new twist in the government’s continuing war on drugs.