President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to defer its upcoming investigation on the recent shootout between police and anti-drug operatives, saying the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should be allowed to do its probe first.
Duterte declared such during his meeting at the Palace with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Friday night, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque confirmed to reporters.
Roque also said the president’s request has been relayed to the Senate and the House of Representatives, which earlier vowed to launch next week their respective investigations on the gunfight between PNP and PDEA on Wednesday outside a mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
Earlier in the day, House committee on dangerous drugs chair Rep. Ace Barbers said his panel’s investigation on the PNP-PDEA shootout is “temporarily suspended” in light of Duterte’s instruction to the NBI to conduct an “impartial” investigation on the incident.
“Our scheduled committee hearing or investigation in aid of legislation on Monday, 1 March, is temporarily suspended as a courtesy to and in order not to hinder the ongoing investigation,” Barbers said through a statement.
Barbers earlier disclosed that he decided to call for an investigation following his colleague’s requests and due to too much “sketchy information” relating to the fatal anti-drugs operation last 24 February.
On the other hand, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III clarified that unlike the lower House, the Senate does not intend to have an investigation into the incident, but to tackle Senate Bill no. 3, that seeks to create the Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority.
In a radio interview on Saturday, Sotto said if PDEA only performed its function in accordance to what was provided in Republic Act 9165, the recent fatal shootout between the QCPD and anti-narcotics agents could have not transpired.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, who leads the Senate committee on public order, has yet to announce whether his panel will also defer its own investigation slated on 2 March.
Duterte has ordered the NBI, which is under the Department of Justice, to look into the one-hour shootout that left four people dead and three others injured.
The president also asked the PNP and the PDEA to halt its joint investigation so the NBI can assume the sole responsibility of conducting an “independent and impartial” probe.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI has formed a composite team led by the bureau’s deputy director Antonio Pagatpat to look into the incident.
“I requested that both the PDEA and the PNP be directed to extend their full cooperation to the NBI,” Guevarra said.
An initial report by the NBI indicated that two PDEA agents and an informant were killed in the shootout during what they called a “legitimate” anti-drug operation. Two bemedaled police officers for the Quezon City Police were also killed.
The gunfire triggered panic among motorists and pedestrians near the shopping mall during the evening rush hour. No civilians were hurt.
Ten police officers and seven from PDEA who were directly involved in the shootout were placed under restrictive custody while the investigation is ongoing.
The PNP and the PDEA have earlier admitted that they are not discounting the possibility that the law enforcers got played by drug rings, noting that the two agencies had different targets.