THE Department of Justice-National Prosecution Service (DOJ-NPS) has found probable cause to indict three agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for homicide and four Philippine National Police (PNP) officers for direct assault in connection with the 2021 shootout between elements of the said agencies that left four people dead.
In a two-page statement, the DOJ-NPS said it issued a resolution last May 2, 2022, indicting PDEA agents Khee Maricar Rodas, Jeffrey Baguidudol and Jelou Satiniaman for homicide for the death of Police Corporal Eric Elvin Garado.
On the other hand, indicted for direct assault were Police Corporal Paul Christian Gandeza for the injuries sustained by PDEA agent Raymart Bayote; Police Lieutenant Honey Besas for the injuries sustained by PDEA agent Prince Bernard Gallego; Police Major Sandie Caparroso for the injuries sustained by PDEA agent Brenson Sulang; and Caparroso and Police Senior Master Sergeant Melvin Merida for the injuries sustained by PDEA agent Allan Capiral.
The DOJ-NPS said the charges against the said law enforcers would be filed before the courts in Quezon City.
However, the DOJ-NPS dismissed the homicide case against PDEA agent Romeo Asuncion in connection with the death of Police Corporal Lauro de Guzman since the firearm reportedly used to shoot De Guzman was not identified.
None of the evidence bullets or spent cartridges found at the area also matched the firearm of Asuncion.
Also dismissed was the homicide charge against Police Corporal Alvin Borja who is being blamed for the death of PDEA agent Rankin Gano.
The DOJ said the Medico-Legal Report and the Ballistics Examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) failed to identify the fatal shot sustained by Gano.
“There is also no record showing that Police Corporal Borja was the only one who actually shot at Gano,” the DOJ-NPS said.
Because of insufficiency of evidence, the DOJ-NPS also dropped the other complaints, namely, attempted homicide, falsification of official document, robbery, conniving to or consenting to evasion, arbitrary detention, sedition, and violation of the Anti-Torture Act.
Based on the findings of the DOJ-NPS panel of prosecutors that conducted the preliminary investigation, both PDEA and the PNP were conducting their separate buy-bust operations on February 24, 2021 along Commonwealth Avenue.
But the respective informants of the PDEA (Untong Matalnas) and Quezon City Police District-District Special Operating Unit (QCPD-DSOU) (Jonaire Decena) intertwined the operations of the two agencies.
PDEA agents and Matalnas were reportedly onboard a white Honda City vehicle and were on their way to Litex, Quezon City when their car engine overheated prompting them to park at the McDonald’s Don Antonio parking lot.
At around the same time, the police officers were on their way to McDonald’s Don Antonio because their informant Decena reportedly told them that the transaction would take place there.
When the policemen arrived at the parking lot, Garado and Decena rushed to the parked Honda City.
Garado then reportedly pointed his firearm at Matalnas and at the other passengers inside the vehicle.
This resulted in an exchange of gunfire between police officers Garado and de Guzman against the PDEA agents.
“The submitted abridged version of the CCTV footage shows that Police Corporal Garado fell down right after smoke soared at the back of the vehicle. Police Corporal De Guzman would also fall down moments after. The abridged version of the CCTV footage also shows PDEA agent Rankin Gano falling down after Police Corporal De Guzman fell,” the DOJ recounted.
After a momentary ceasefire, and when other QCPD-DSOU operatives arrived at the scene, the shooting resumed until the PDEA agents were cornered at the McDonald’s drive through area.
“After evaluation of the evidence, the panel of prosecutors found sufficient evidence to charge respondents PDEA agents Rodas, Baguidudol and Satiniaman for homicide for the death of Police Corporal Garada,” the DOJ said.
“With respect to the injuries sustained by the PDEA respondents, there are sufficient evidence identifying some police officers who actually hit, strike, and maul them,” it added.