By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to investigate the legitimacy of the misencounter between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police’s Dangerous Drug Enforcement Unit (DDEU) which resulted in a bloody shootout last Feb. 24.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 688 urging the appropriate Senate Committee to ensure not just the legitimacy of such an operation, but as well as the legal bases upon which the country’s anti-drug law enforcers operate to avert same incidents in the future.
“It is imperative to determine the legitimacy of the operations of law enforcement agencies that resulted in deaths of officers and civilians, as well as the legality of utilizing inmates in the operations of law enforcement agents and officers which poses a number of serious risks both to the public and the success of legitimate law enforcement operations,” she said.
“With no less than the Justice Secretary admitting before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that more than half of the anti-drug operations conducted by law enforcement agencies failed to follow protocol, it is important to determine whether the issue of compliance of both the PNP and the PDEA in the established rules concerning anti-drug operations, could have been the cause of the bloody misencounter,” she added.
Last Feb. 24, PDEA and PNP operatives engaged in a deadly shootout along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City that left five people dead, including two members of PNP and one PDEA agent.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin later revealed that the asset or informant of the Quezon City Police District named Jonaire Decena participated in the operation when she was supposed to be detained having been arrested in a buy-bust in January.
Decena was reportedly the person coordinating a transaction with PDEA asset Untong Matalnas before the shootout. Matalnas was one of the casualties and his death is of special interest as CCTV footage seemed to show that several men, believed to be members of the PNP, took him into custody.
Notably, on the same day, Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed before the UNHRC that more than half of the thousands of anti-drug operations launched by the police under the Duterte administration failed to comply with the rules of engagement and protocol.
To avoid misencounters among agents of government and other incidents with the same nature in the future, De Lima said it is imperative for the Senate to determine necessary policy reforms or come up with remedial legislation on certain law enforcement procedures and standard protocols.
De Lima likewise said that reforming certain law enforcement procedures and protocols is necessary to “improve the legal mechanisms for the accountability of state actors and strengthen the mandate and responsibilities of relevant government agencies involved in such legitimate operations.”
The lady Senator from Bicol further stressed that law enforcement agencies must be reminded that they are bound by the established rules and guidelines on “buy-bust” operations.
“Any reported irregularity in the performance of their duties concerning these operations must be dealt with to the full extent of the law and that the commission of abuses and outright crimes during and after such operations by government agents must be held accountable,” De Lima said. (AI/MTVN)