The deadly shootout between elements of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on 24 February was not a chance encounter, but one that emanated from a buy-bust operation set in motion 10 days earlier.
From various sources, including interviews, photos, videos, and documents, the Daily Tribune pieced together the following chronology of events from the police operational side of the encounter that claimed the lives of two policemen, a PDEA agent, and his asset.
The buy-bust operation set by the policemen was touched off on 14 February by an offer from a “pusher” to sell the QCPD informant one kilo of shabu for P1 million.
Said information was vetted the next day, 15 February, and 2,000 pieces of P500 bills corresponding to the agreed selling price of P1 million for the one kilo of shabu were withdrawn from the QCPD D6/Comptroller Division.
The withdrawal was covered by an official police acknowledgment receipt, and the bills were duly processed, photographed, and put inside a bag.
On 16 February, information came in that the transaction may take place on 18 February in Baclaran. The deal did not push through on the said date.
The confidential informant on 20 February informed her police handlers that the deal may take place on 22 February. Again, the transaction did not push through then.
On the day before the shootout, in the morning of 23 February, the deal between the informant and the peddler was finalized to take place that same day in Baclaran.
By noon, a Pre-Operation Report was drawn up by QCPD under control No. 10001-022021-0582 to authorize the buy-bust operation within 24 hours, to effect the arrest of “targets” alias James and alias Lyka and their cohorts.
Also on 23 February, a Coordination Form, with the same control number as the Pre-Operation Report, was prepared by QCPD and submitted to PDEA, identifying the 16 personnel taking part in the buy-bust operation.
Except for the informant, the 16-member team was composed of QCPD police officers led by P/Lt. Ronnie Ereño and P/Lt. Honey Besas. Also in the team were P/Cpl. Elvin Eric Garado and P/Cpl. Lauro de Guzman Jr.
But the 23 February transaction was again canceled by the peddler because of “suspicious characters” sighted in Baclaran.
QCPD extended its pre-ops and coordination documents with PDEA for 24 February, with PDEA National Capital Region issuing a Certificate of Coordination on the same date acknowledging the continuing efforts by QCPD to effect a buy-bust on the targets.
On the fateful day of the shootout, on 24 February, information came in by 2 a.m. that the deal was to proceed and that it would take place around Litex in Commonwealth, Q.C.
The police team positioned at Litex by 7:30 a.m. for the possible buy-bust, but regrouped before noon at the office when the sale did not push through in the morning.
By 3 p.m., the peddler sent a personal message asking for the location of the QCPD confidential informant who was to serve as buyer of the drugs, along with P/Cpl. Garado.
At around 4:30 p.m., the peddler and informant agreed to a change of location to consummate the deal. Their conversation was caught on video inside the vehicle carrying the informant.
Then, P/Cpl. Garado messaged the team at 5:12 p.m. to inform them of the change of venue and the positive sighting of the “suspects” at the parking lot of a fastfood outlet along Commonwealth Avenue.
Garado advised the team he would proceed to the location to conduct surveillance. Meantime, various units of the police team positioned in the area near the fastfood parking lot.
At 5:26 p.m., P/Cpl. Garado, acting as poseur-buyer, informed the team that he, along with the confidential informant, will proceed to a gasoline station across the restaurant.
Garado then messaged the team that the male and female targets were positively identified to be in the parking lot. Various members of the team were ordered to pre-position themselves to back-up Garado and the informant from a distance.
At 5:45 p.m., Garado proceeded to the parking lot of the restaurant. He advised the team on the presence of a “suspicious” car parked under the footbridge along Commonwealth Avenue
Garado then gave the “go” signal at 5:51 p.m., informing fellow members of the police team that the transaction had started and that the “suspects” were on board a white Honda Civic car.
A minute later, Garado and P/Cpl. De Guzman were fatally shot near the white car. PDEA agent Rankin Gano was also later killed in the incident with PDEA yet to officially confirm to reporters the identity of their slain asset.
A five-minute-long closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage secured by the Daily Tribune showed the following sequence of events:
• A man standing in the open driver’s side door of the white car.
• Another man (later identified as P/Cpl. Garado) walks in the direction of the car’s driver’s side with a woman (reportedly the informant) trailing him.
• Garado leans into the driver’s compartment with the standing man remaining motionless beside him.
• Garado then runs into the back of the white car, while the woman-informant runs to the passenger side of the vehicle.
• A third man in red shirt (reportedly from the PDEA team) appears in the direction from where Garado and the informant earlier came from.
• The man on red shirt runs in the direction of the car’s passenger side.
• Garado and the man on red appear to exchange gunfire with the informant caught in the middle.
• Man on red shirt falls and stays motionless on the ground near the front wheel of the white car.
• Garado then hides behind the white car as another man in shorts appears and starts firing at him. The man retreats and falls down.
• A gunshot appears to come from inside the car, sending a spray of glass outward, with Garado falling down.
The above sequence of events was broadcast by a television station, but not what happened immediately after Garado and the responding De Guzman fell mortally wounded.
The same footage showed a woman in shorts and sneakers disembarking from the white car with drawn gun. She would walk around with a number of other armed men who appeared to be her companions. They were all in civilian clothing.
At least one of the men carried a rifle. Photos taken opposite the perspective of the CCTV camera would show the armed men and woman loading the man on red into a passing Asian utility vehicle.
It was at that point that an hour-long exchange of gunfire ensued between the police team and those who were in the white car later identified as members of PDEA.
PDEA has declined to comment on developments in the case now being handled by the National Bureau of Investigation.