Army to MILF: Let’s join hands vs 'shabu'

ILIGAN CITY -- A local commander of the Philippine Army has asked the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make its effort to wipe out illegal drugs in the Bangsamoro areas.

Colonel Gilbert Gapay, commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade, made the call as the expected start of the MILF’s operation against suspected shabu (crystal meth) traders draws near.

NILF has set December 15 as kick off for its ‘law enforcement’ campaign.

Last month, the MILF central committee issued a directive that effectively launched its official campaign against illegal drugs, particularly shabu (metamphetamine hydrochloride), which is widely traded in many Moro communities.

“We have issued this same appeal for us to join hands on this matter since the MILF’s central committee came out with its directive against illegal drugs. We hope we get a positive response soonest,” Gapay explained.

Gapay added that his command also sent a protest to the joint ceasefire committee regarding the possible conduct of any unilateral action on the part of rebel forces supposedly for “law enforcement” as an offshoot of the MILF central committee’s directive.

“Together, we can achieve greater results while preventing kinks in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and its related protocols,” Gapay stressed.

He cited the “good results” achieved by previous joint law enforcement campaigns launched through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (Ahjag).

The Ahjag is a mechanism under the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and government. In the past, it was instrumental in the campaign against Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in central Mindanao as well as in combating the problem of cattle rustling in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte.

But the mechanism suffered a heavy blow when police commandos skipped utilizing it in the Jan. 25 operation to ferret out Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir, known as Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The resulting violation of the ceasefire accord led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, 16 MILF combatants and several civilians.

“We want to cooperate on this common concern (of stopping the proliferation of shabu) within the bounds of the ceasefire accord,” Gapay said.

A source told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro the local leadership of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, has a list of persons residing in specific places who are the targets of the operation.

Another source said that with the BIAF list as lead, local government officials in Tangkal town in Lanao del Norte already took the initiative of shooing away alleged shabu traders or apprehending them if there is evidence these persons are engaged in the illegal business.

“Probably, they (local officials) do not want to see a potential armed scuffle between these suspected shabu traders and the MILF force,” the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro source explained.

Civil society groups that have been following the peace situation in Lanao del Norte noted that the local governments in Matungao and Pantao-Ragat towns have ordered the taking down of tarpaulin posters announcing the MILF’s impending anti-shabu operations.

What remained now are those containing messages that tell about the dangers of shabu, hence it is “haram” or forbidden.

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