Ping: Who fired first shot?

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    SEN. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson yesterday said the National Bureau of Investigation, which has been tasked by President Duterte to probe the deadly misencounter between operatives of the PNP and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Wednesday last week, must determine who fired the first shot and which group provoked the firefight.

    In a radio interview, Lacson also said government policies on the war against illegal drugs need to be adjusted to prevent a repeat of the misencounter on Commonwealth Ave. that left two cops, a PDEA agent and a PDEA informant dead.

    The PNP identified the two slain officers as Police Corporals Elvin Garado and Lauro de Guzman Jr. while the PDEA said it lost Rankin Gano, an intelligence officer, in the shootout. De Guzman and Gano were decorated antinarcotics operatives.

    ‘What is important here is the NBI find out not only who fired first, but who provoked who.

    My informant from PDEA said the PNP aimed their guns (at the PDEA agents) instead of declaring a buy-bust. So the backup PDEA agents got off their vehicles as they were watching the incident from a distance; they alighted. which triggered the gun battle,” Lacson said.

    Over the weekend, Duterte ordered the NBI to probe the shootout, telling the PDEA and PNP to give way. Both agencies declared last Thursday that they will jointly probe the misencounter.

    As a result, the Senate and House probes on the incident have been postponed.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI will dig for the truth in its probe on the misencounter, adding while the probe covers the criminal aspects, it can also recommend administrative cases if the evidence warrants it.

    Lacson said one adjustment needed is to have the PDEA focus on intelligence work and leave anti-drug operations to the PNP and other law enforcement agencies.

    He added another issue that needs to be acted upon is the “trust” between the two agencies.

    “We have to resolve the trust issue between the PNP and PDEA. But it would be better if the PDEA acted as overseer in anti-drug operations, and focus on intelligence-gathering, whether it is technical or human intelligence,” said Lacson, who served as PNP chief under former president Joseph Estrada.

    Lacson said he supports the passage of a Senate bill filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III in 2019 which proposes the creation of a “super body” against illegal drugs under one roof called the Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority.

    The measure proposes that the PDEA absorbs the policy-making and strategic-formulating functions of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

    Lacson also said the PNP and PDEA may have been “played” by a drug syndicate and added the NBI has to include this in its probe.

    He said this was a setback in the government’s war against illegal drugs as it shows lapses in coordination between the PNP and PDEA. – With Victor Reyes