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Need for better crowd control following misencounter cited

THERE is a need to reexamine and look for better ways to impose crowd control in dangerous scenarios like what happened during the encounter between members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Wednesday night.

This was stressed by Mayor Joy Belmonte as she is scheduled to meet with officials of the QCPD, barangays, QC Department of Public Order and Safety, QCDRRMO and other relevant agencies to discuss how crowding in encounter sites can be prevented to protect the public.

Belmonte stressed the need for better crowd management to avert untoward incidents.

She noted that amateur videos of the shootout showed civilians standing near the encounter site, or a few feet away from responding police officers.

Public safety is paramount. We need to reexamine and look for ways to better impose crowd control in dangerous scenarios where stray bullets can hit anyone, or a running gun battle can ensue. We already learned during the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis that keeping media and civilians a safe distance away from ground zero or an encounter site is very crucial,” Belmonte said.

The mayor, however, clarified that it is the duty of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the House of Representatives to investigate the PDEA and QCPD shootout, and that she is leaving it to the joint inquiry team to determine the details of what transpired and who should be held accountable.

Belmonte explained that the city government’s primary concern is to know why and how the incident endangered the safety and lives of civilians in the area.

This, I believe, calls for a separate investigation by the PLEB later. While there were no civilian casualties, the incident happened in a commercial area and caused undue terror. The incident showed that certain protocols or guidelines could be institutionalized to ensure the safety of our civilian populace in such delicate operations,” she added.

Belmonte also plans to meet with business owners along the encounter site to determine how the city government can help regain consumer confidence in the area.

Our economy is already suffering from the pandemic, and it is incumbent upon us to help the business owners in the area,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte earlier expressed full support for the ongoing investigation of the PNP-PDEA Board of Inquiry, even as she enjoined the public to refrain from spreading misinformation and disinformation on the incident, pending the results of the probe.

It was definitely an isolated incident and we don’t want our police and PDEA personnel’s performance to dip and their morale affected by what others are spreading in social media. We must allow them to continue protecting our city, and wait for the probe to finish,” she added.