PNP and PDEA again craft guidelines for drug operations after standoff
Photo shows PNP and PDEA leadership at a meeting after personnel of the two agencies figured in yet another standoff.
Release / PNP PIO

PNP and PDEA again craft guidelines for drug operations after standoff

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - May 17, 2021 - 1:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have, again, drawn up guidelines for anti-drug operations after yet another "misencounter".

This comes after separate buy-busts between the Novaliches police station drug enforcement unit and PDEA agents from the agency's Calabarzon regional office almost led to another shootout after the two stood off near a shopping mall in Brgy. Greater Lagro on Friday.

Speaking at his weekly press conference Monday morning, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief said that the two sides discussed the crafting of unified operational guidelines and protocols that shall be observed by PNP and PDEA Units when conducting anti-illegal drugs operations.

"Yes, they were buy-busts, but there are layers to these operations...It just so happened that they clashed this time," Eleazar said in Filipino when asked if the two operations were legitimate. 

"In my assessment, there's no problem there, because before the operation there are many strategies on how to do it. The issue there is they both fielded armed groups, and they almost had a shootout."

At a bilateral meeting Saturday between top officials of both agencies, the two touched on how to improve coordination, collaboration, and cooperation of PNP and PDEA operating units to avoid previous incidents of miscommunication and misunderstanding during anti-ilLegal drugs operations.

Eleazar earlier claimed that “illegal drugs syndicates are taking advantage of the weaknesses or gaps in the rules of procedure on coordination and inter-operations between the PNP and the PDEA." 

"With the PDEA, we will focus on this now to avoid any repeats of lapses in coordination and communication,” Eleazar added.

"The problem isn't the operations, because they were both legitimate operations. The problem is coordination."

Not the first time

The two agencies have already faced off at the same anti-drug operation in the past.

To recall, personnel of the two bureaus figured in a shootout outside the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City in February. Four people died as a result.

"If they didn't identify themselves, it was possible for it to result in another gunfight. But there were no violations or crimes that happened on their part. What we're discussing right now is, why did it happen again after Commonwealth?" Eleazar said Monday. 

Though details are still unclear, the police chief added that the two agencies were going after the "same group but different personalities" in their latest operation over the weekend, saying the PNP "cannot discount the possibility" that the manipulation of drug syndicates is what led to the misencounter. 

The buy-bust operations failed after their targets were reportedly spooked by the confrontation, and it was only when both sides identified themselves as law enforcement personnel that tensions eased.

Both the PNP and the PDEA said their personnel observed complete compliance to all procedures during the botched operation.

"It serves as a lesson for us. It's a good thing it didn't result in an armed encounter...but it gave us the resolve to coordinate properly," Eleazar said. 

What do the PNP's rules say?

According to the PNP's Revised Operational Procedures, which is a public document, "PNP units, prior to any anti-drug operations shall, as far as practicable, coordinate with the PDEA."

Rule 37, which touches on the rules governing anti-illegal drug operations, reads: 

In any case, the PNP anti-drug units shall coordinate/ inform the PDEA of the anti-drug operation within 24-hours from the time of the actual custody of the suspects or seizure of said drugs and substances as well as paraphernalia and transport equipment used in illegal activities involving such drugs and/or substances and shall regularly update the PDEA on the status of the cases involving the said anti-drug operation. 

Rule 7.2 of the police manual also directs officers to "first issue a verbal warning" before resorting to force, but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable "where threat to life or property is already imminent" and cops are given no choice. 

Rules 7.4 and 7.5 of the PNP Operational Procedures hold that:

"When suspect is violent or threatening, and that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate, a more extreme, but non-deadly measure can be used such as baton/truncheon, pepper spray, stun gun and other nonlethal weapon to bring the suspect under control, or effect an arrest.

During confrontation with an armed offender, only such necessary and reasonable force should be applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the offender; subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him; or to justify the force/act under the principles of self-defense, defense of relative, or defense of stranger."

 — with a report from The STAR 

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