Perverted law enforcement
As bad days go, this week was a particularly lousy one for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). On Monday, Feb. 22, a Dumaguete court issued arrest warrants against five PDEA agents for indirect contempt over a fake buy-bust operation they had foisted on the court last year. On June 28,
2020, PDEA agents arrested five persons they accused of selling drugs in Dumaguete, only for CCTV footage to show that the law enforcers had picked up the alleged suspects one after the other and forced them inside an AUV. The court threw out the case in October 2020, and in citing the PDEA agents for contempt and ordering their arrest as well as fining them P30,000 each, Judge Amelia Lourdes Mendoza of the Negros Oriental Regional Trial Court Branch 34 rebuked them for having “acted willfully and deliberately to cause injustice to accused and to degrade the administration of justice.”
Two days after that judicial denunciation of the agency’s appalling criminal misdeed, PDEA agents found themselves engaged in a shootout with their brothers in arms in law enforcement, the police. The incident unfolded like a badly scripted B-action movie, except that it put at serious risk scores of civilians and bystanders: 10 policemen and seven agents of the PDEA had what authorities quickly termed a “misencounter” near Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Wednesday, during early evening rush hour. What was supposedly a drug bust operation left four people dead — two police officers and an agent and informer of PDEA — while another PNP officer and three PDEA agents were wounded. According to Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas, both PDEA’s special enforcement services agents and officers from the Quezon City Police District’s special operating unit were conducting “legitimate and duly-coordinated buy-bust operations.”
How coordinated? Even Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, himself a former PNP chief and a staunch champion of his fellow cops, could not defend the bloody debacle: “If indeed there was proper coordination made by both camps, there was negligence in the proper dissemination of that coordination to the operating units,” he said. Sen. Risa Hontiveros likewise scored the “dramatic lack of coordination” between the PNP and the PDEA, pointing out that the two organizations get huge intelligence funds—P856 million for the PNP and P500 million for PDEA under the 2021 national budget.
That law enforcement agencies are now blindly shooting at each other is perhaps inevitable, given their ample record of bungled operations and poor, shoddy investigative work. Earlier this month, Mandaluyong City Judge Monique Quisumbing Ignacio junked the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case the PNP filed against journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago, and admonished the police for blatant and significant inconsistencies in their testimonies.
Then, the Marikina City prosecutor’s office gave short shrift to the charge of disobedience to authority the police had filed against a group of people arrested on Labor Day last year while they were conducting relief operations and protesting the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group had been given permission by city authorities to do their activity, and they observed proper health protocols. But PNP chief Sinas, then Metro Manila police chief, justified the harsh police action, saying those arrested were “in the streets, holding placards to protest.” In its resolution released last week, the Marikina prosecutor’s office rejected the PNP’s contention, declaring there was no probable cause against the respondents.
In Zambales, the complaint of inciting to sedition related to cybercrime that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had filed last year against teacher Ronnel Mas over his tweet offering a P50-million bounty to kill President Duterte (a joke, protested Mas) was dismissed anew by an Olongapo court on Feb. 16. The case had already been junked by the court, but was refiled by the NBI. Prosecutor JT Leonardo Santos said the agency failed to beef up its complaint with proof, including the forensic examination of electronics. How inept was the NBI’s case work? Nothing under the cybercrime law “has been complied with in the investigation and gathering of data…”, Santos noted, and while “The prosecutor understands the seriousness of the remark made and the possible impact it may have created in disrupting peace and order in our country… he cannot turn a blind eye to the rules of procedure, quantum of evidence and the law.”
The PDEA, the PNP, the NBI all being rapped for resorting to lawbreaking and shortcuts in their work: Who can the public turn to under such a perverted environment?
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