Senator asks why detainees tapped in sting operations
MANILA, Philippines — Is it common practice for the police to use female detainees as informants and have them pose as buyers in sting operations?
Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised that question at a Senate inquiry on Monday into the Feb. 24 encounter between operatives of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Two policemen, a narcotics agent and an informant were reported killed in that incident.
At the hearing of the Senate public order committee, the former chief of the QCPD’s special operations unit, Maj. Sandie Caparroso, narrated the sequence of events that he said led to the “misencounter” at the parking lot of Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue.
He said a QCPD detainee, Jonaire Decena, was made to pose as a buyer of “shabu” (crystal meth) from a drug dealer with whom she had transacted in the past.
The supposed buy-bust operation took a turn for the worse after the policeman who accompanied Decena shot it out with the buyers who turned out to be PDEA agents.
But Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women and children, zeroed in on the fact that the QCPD temporarily freed a woman under detention to involve her in a drug operation.
The senator said Decena’s case might not be isolated, as the same thing apparently happened in another buy-bust operation on May 15.
‘We have work’
That operation in another mall parking lot almost led to another shootout, as agents of the PDEA and QCPD were again simultaneously conducting their respective drug operations there.
At the Senate hearing, Hontiveros showed a video interview of an unidentified woman who said that she was released from detention because “we have work.”
The woman said she joined the operation since it was her phone that was being used for the transaction.
Hontiveros said, “The PNP leadership should investigate this serious allegation. If we want public order, there must be protocols so that [operations] are orderly and strategic. The police should not be allowed to act on their own.”
Blaming each other
PDEA and QCPD officials who attended the hearing blamed each other for the Ever Gotesco encounter.
PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva focused his presentation on what he called the QCPD’s operational lapses, as he pointed at CCTV footage which showed it was a policeman who fired first.
Cesar Bacani, director for the National Capital Region of the National Bureau of Investigation, told the hearing that some operatives of PDEA and QCPD claimed that Untong “Bato” Matalnas, the informant who was identified as among the fatalities in the encounter, was still alive after that shootout.
“He was still alive at 7:20 [p.m.] then he was taken by an ambulance. He died at the East Avenue [Medical Center],” Bacani said.
“You need to investigate who killed Bato,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.
Bacani said the NBI, which was tasked to investigate the encounter, would finish its inquiry in about two weeks.
Yet amid tensions between these two agencies, teams deployed by the PNP and PDEA jointly conducted two sting operations on Sunday.
The suspects in the operation at Katarungan Village 1 in Muntinlupa City—Jordan Abrigo and Jayvee de Guzman—were killed after engaging law enforcers in a shootout, PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said on Monday.
He also said the suspects could be members of the Divinagracia drug group involved in the distribution of narcotics in Metro Manila, Western Visayas and parts of Mindanao.
Eleazar cited a report saying that Abrigo and De Guzman had 10 kilograms of shabu with them worth P68 million, packaged in Chinese tea bags.
Also recovered from the slain suspects were two .45-caliber pistols.
An operation in Tabuk City, provincial capital of Kalinga, led to the arrest of Vierniel Bigot, who is listed among the top 10 drug suspects in the Cordillera.
The arrest of Bigot, 24, also yielded 10 bricks of marijuana leaves worth P1.2 million.