PNP: Zambales drug operation ‘legitimate’
The Philippine National Police on Wednesday confirmed the veracity of a controversial video circulating on social media showing masked policemen appearing to try to muscle their way into a family’s compound in San Antonio town, Zambales, on Sunday.
But Police Colonel Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, clarified that it showed an incomplete picture of a legitimate hot pursuit operation.
In a press briefing at Camp Crame on Wednesday, Banac said the video was taken on Sunday at the tail end of an operation on a “known drug personality,” identified as Joel Villanueva, who had just “run into his family’s compound to escape the police officers.”
Villanueva had allegedly assaulted one of the officers conducting undercover surveillance at Barangay East Dirita in San Antonio.
In a report Banac released to reporters, the officer, Patrolman John Abner Asinas, claimed Villanueva pushed and kicked him when the latter thought he was going to be arrested.
The assault prompted Asinas to try to arrest Villanueva, who, the policeman claimed, even swung a steel bar at him before running to his family’s house, the report said.
Asinas and his companions, identified as Police Master Sergeant Precy Miraballes and Police Senior Master Sergeant Arnold Granadozin, gave chase to Villanueva but were blocked by his parents.
When the police officers realized they were being videotaped, they then wore bonnets “to protect their identities,” Banac said. They claimed they left after “relatives of the suspects started to gather around, armed with pieces of iron and wood,” he said.
“Our police were conducting a legitimate surveillance and information gathering operation,” he said. “We do not see anything wrong in what the police officers were caught on camera doing.”
In the video taken by Villanueva’s cousin, Justine Josue Alquetra, people at the scene had been calling out to the policemen, asking them what Villanueva had done wrong, or if they had a warrant of arrest, but the lawmen remained mum.
On Thursday, the video had garnered more than 900,000 views and was shared more than 17,000 times.
Police Brigadier General Joel Coronel, regional police director in Central Luzon, said he had ordered an investigation of the incident.
He also said there would be no whitewash in the investigation. “Any infraction and wrongdoing committed by our policemen will never be tolerated,” he said.
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