Senate must assert right to probe PDEA-PNP shootout – Hontiveros
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate must not bow to Malacañang’s will by blocking its own inquiry into the Feb. 24 shootout between narcotics agents and policemen, which, according to a senator, might implicate ranking officials of both the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the drug trade.
“You would really wonder. Why are they stopping the Senate from investigating? The Senate is an independent body. There is public clamor to find answers,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros told the Inquirer in a text message.
“Pronouncements from other government bodies, even from the President himself, should not hamper the power of the Senate to inquire into peace and order issues like these,” she said, as she called on her colleagues to assert the Senate’s independence by proceeding with the investigation against President Duterte’s wishes.
On Monday, Hontiveros filed a proposed resolution calling on the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to look into the gunfight at Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City, where two police officers and an agent and an informant of the PDEA were killed.
On Sunday, the National Bureau of Investigation, which Mr. Duterte tasked to investigate the shootout, said there was a fifth fatality but it could not yet provide more details.
Hontiveros, in a separate statement, said, “We, in the Senate, are well within our rights to investigate this further, especially that the details are still murky.”
The Senate panel, chaired by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former PNP chief who headed the government’s war on drugs at the start of Mr. Duterte’s administration, was supposed to launch its inquiry on March 2, but shelved it in deference to Mr. Duterte’s wish.
The House of Representatives also postponed an inquiry, originally scheduled on March 1.
But Hontiveros said it was incumbent on Dela Rosa’s committee to investigate “current law enforcement procedures and protocols to avoid another ‘misencounter.’”
She raised a number of questions about the incident, primarily on whether there were PNP or PDEA officials involved in the drug trade.
Another lawmaker on Monday said the wearing of body cameras, which had been proposed in an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, could have prevented the shootout.
“This could have aborted any seeming illegal activity that was intended to be perpetrated by any [person] against law enforcers or could have recorded all activities during the entire operation,” Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, even as we have called for its use years ago, our pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears, whether intentional or otherwise. Now that we have included it in the law and passed it in the House, the Senate has yet to file a similar bill,” he said.
The proposed amendments to the country’s drug law were passed by the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress but the Senate had no version of the bill at that time, Barbers said.
Body cameras ordered by the police have since been distributed to police stations around the country following the shootout.
—WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES
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