Four killed in PNP-PDEA shootout, including informant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — Four people were killed in Wednesday's controversial shootout between anti-drug operatives of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, authorities said Thursday.

Aside from the two policemen who were earlier confirmed dead, a PDEA agent and an informant were also killed, PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva told a media briefing.

He added that two other PDEA personnel who were critically injured are now stable. A total of three PDEA agents and another police officer were wounded in the shootout.

Some 17 uniformed personnel – 10 policemen and seven PDEA agents were "directly involved" in the shooting incident, and are now "restricted" and being investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, PNP chief General Debold Sinas said.

Villanueva and Sinas said the joint board of inquiry is still trying to determine what really happened on Wednesday, when members of the Quezon City Police District and PDEA operatives exchanged fire near a fast-food restaurant parking lot outside Ever Gotesco Commonwealth at around 6 p.m.

Video footage obtained by CNN Philippines shows multiple gunshots fired, one after another.

Buy-bust operations

Both the PNP and PDEA said they were each conducting legitimate buy-bust operations, refusing to disclose the identities of their targets who remain at large.

"Live pa ‘yung mga targets natin (Our targets are live) and we cannot divulge the names of the people," Villanueva said. It's unclear if the PNP and PDEA had the same targets and informants.

When asked why they conducted anti-drug operations near a mall, where there are many civilians, Villanueva said it was "a technique." He did not elaborate. Sinas for his part said it was "just incidental."

Villanueva disputed claims they lacked coordination, explaining that targets usually go by aliases in anti-drug operations.

Ongoing probe

Villanueva said all angles are being considered, including the possibility it was a setup planned by a drug syndicate.

"Pwedeng maging angle kasi nga nangyari na 'yan before (That's an angle because it happened before)," he said, adding that drug personalities may be going after PDEA because their shabu operations were taking a hit.

The anti-drug official also did not rule out the possibility there was sabotage, or that rogue personnel may have been involved.

The National Bureau of Investigation is conducting a parallel probe into what was earlier described by the National Capital Region Police Office as a "misencounter."

Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, a former top cop, told CNN Philippines he believes it may be a case of poor coordination. He said the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, which he chairs, will also look into the incident through a legislative inquiry next week.

READ: Duterte sad over PNP-PDEA 'misencounter,' wants fair probe on incident — Malacañang