Forensic exam of cellphones on hold: NBI probe of PDEA, PNP misencounter stalls over warrant wait
The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) probe on the alleged “misencounter” between the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents has hit a roadblock as the agency has yet to get a warrant to proceed with the forensic examination of the law enforcers’ cellphones.

Forensic exam of cellphones on hold: NBI probe of PDEA, PNP misencounter stalls over warrant wait

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By Nancy Carvajal

The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) probe on the alleged “misencounter” between the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents has hit a roadblock as the agency has yet to get a warrant to proceed with the forensic examination of the law enforcers’ cellphones.

An NBI insider told Politiko that the court would have to conduct a hearing first on the NBI’s application for a WECD warrant.

“We have applied for a WECD- warrant to examine computer data before a Quezon City Judge and because of the pandemic we are still waiting for the approval to examine the content of the cellphones,’’ the source said.

“This is beyond the control of anyone, we just have to wait for the meantime,” the source added.

The insider added that without the warrant, they cannot touch the cellphones because it is tantamount to tampering of evidence.

“We have no choice but to wait for the forensic examination of the cellphones to validate the sworn statements of the participants in the incident, but without a warrant we cannot proceed, ’’ the source explained.

Another source earlier told Politiko that lapses were found in the covert operation that led to the shootout between PDEA and QCPD agents.

A source familiar with the investigation cited “coordination as the primary violation but didn’t give further details.

“There were operational lapses committed by the two groups that could have caused the encounter, but as to other aspects like the legitimacy and explanation of their presence in the area, have yet to be studied carefully through the cellphones of the participants in the shooting,’’ the source said.

The source also said that the PDEA and QCPD agents involved in the shooting gave two different versions of the operation.

According to the source the only “common denominator’’ in the statement of the PDEA and QCPD police statements is Quezon City.’’

“PDEA and QCPD police gave different versions of the operation, we will know who is telling the truth based on the discussion in the group chat in the cellphones which are now being examined and analyzed,’’ the source said.

Eight cellphones belonging to PDEA and QCPD agents involved in the incident are now under extensive forensic examination,’’ the source said.

The source also said that PDEA agents involved in the shootout with the QCPD police near a fast food chain in Commonwealth came from an operation provided by an asset in Manila, which turned out negative.

“The same asset led the PDEA agents to the second operation which was supposed to take place where the shootout happened. It turned out the asset was dealing with the QCPD operatives,’’ the source said.

Four people were killed, including the PDEA asset, in the shootout on 24 February.

President Rodrigo Duterte directed the NBI to solely conduct an investigation and ordered PDEA and PNP to stop their investigation.

The Senate and House of Representatives also did not push through with their inquiry pending results of the NBI investigation.

Five people were killed in the incident, two from the PNP, a PDEA agent and an informant.

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