CAMP RANAO, Marawi City -- Government troops seized 11 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), several high-powered firearms, and an Isis flag inside a dismantled hideout of the Maute bandits in Marawi City.
The troops, led by First Lieutenant Emerson Tapang of the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion, recovered the shabu and four high-powered firearms after a firefight with the Maute bandits around 6 p.m. Sunday, June 18, said Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of Task Force Marawi.
“The soldiers spotted men in black emerging from a cluster of houses that prompted troops to maneuver. The terrorists put up a fight but fled while carrying items taken from one of the houses,” said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.
Aside from the drug haul, several drug paraphernalia and combustible materials, such as fuel or gasoline, were also recovered. Herrera said these are the ones used by the bandits in burning civilian houses.
According to the military, the drug haul is estimated to be between P110 million to P250 million. Galvez said the recovery is "the largest illegal drug haul so far."
"This strengthens our findings that these terrorists are using illegal drugs, which according to Muslim religious leaders is Haram. These Maute and ASG (Abu Sayyaf) terrorists are not Muslims. They have violated every tenets of the teachings in the Holy Quran," Galvez said.
The religious term "Haram" refers to any act that is forbidden by Islam.
Galvez noted the troops have recovered sachets of shabu “in the fighting positions of Maute and ASG members” since the early period of the fighting in Marawi City.
“The troops in the front line say they are facing drug crazed individuals who are evidently high on illegal drugs,” he said.
He added that aside from drug peddling, the terror group is also using mosques as sniper positions, logistics hub and safe havens for the command control of its core group, which a major disrespect for their religion.
The illegal drugs were turned over to Joint Task Group Haribon for proper disposition.
The recovery came in the light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier statement that some drug personalities might be funding the Maute extremists.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in Manila said the military’s clearing operations continue to yield “positive results,” noting that only portions of four out of 96 towns in the besieged city “remain as problematic areas.”
“Enemy resistance continues to wane and enemy-held areas continue to diminish as government security forces press its advance,” he said.
“Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy-held positions as evidenced by the recovery of cadavers of terrorists and their firearms, computers and peripherals, as well as communications equipment and accessories,” he added.
Abella assured that the military remains committed to the ensure that Maute gunmen “will not be able to pose a threat in any part of the Philippines.”
Mindanao has been placed under martial law after the Maute Group entered Marawi City on May 23 to defend international terrorist Isnilon Hapilon, the purported leader of the Islamic State's Southeast Asia branch who was the subject of an arrest warrant by government authorities.
Hapilon is on Washington's list of most-wanted terrorists and has a $5 million bounty on his head. Reports said the Maute Group also aimed to establish an enclave for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi.
As of Sunday night, the government reported deaths of 26 civilians, 62 government troops, and 250 terrorists in the ongoing battle in Marawi City. (With reports from Alan Tangcawan/SuperBalita Cebu and Bong Garcia/SunStar Philippines)