OZAMIZ CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is open to collaborate with the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the campaign against illicit drugs.
Duterte unfolded on July 7 the web of individuals allegedly running the illicit drug trade in the country, following his disclosure about the alleged links to it of top police officials, two of whom have already retired from the service.
In November last year, the MILF central committee issued a directive to its political and military leaders to help stifle the brisk trading of ‘shabu’ in Moro communities in Mindanao. But this met objections from security agencies, fearing this would breach the ceasefire accord between government and the MILF.
“With the election of Duterte as president of this country, and his hardline policy on drugs, the campaign of the MILF against drugs finds comfort,” read a recent editorial in the MILF’s official website.
“In fact, a possible understanding or arrangement can be worked out. This can be done through the existing mechanisms of the peace process such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH),” the group furthered.
The AHJAG’s mandate is “to interdict and isolate kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in MILF areas and communities” while the CCCH monitors implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the parties.
In the past, the AHJAG was instrumental in the campaign against Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists and major kidnap-for-ransom groups in Central Mindanao as well as in combating the problem of cattle rustling in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte.
The MILF, which forged a peace pact with government in 2014, explained that it was compelled to launch the anti-shabu campaign as “the drug menace is already destroying the future of the Bangsamoro people and hence should be confronted head on.”
The group said it had “identified hundreds to thousands of drug pushers especially in Central Mindanao” through the campaign which, it added, already “achieved some successes... and saved so many users or addicts from further destruction.”
But the group admitted that its people can only do so much because of the “very limited resources and facilities” under its disposal “to rehabilitate drug addicts and punish drug pushers.”
The MILF said the supply of illicit drugs traded in Moro communities mostly come from areas where it has less influence hence unable to completely “plug the source.”
It also lamented that some of those engaged in drug trafficking are in government, “several of them won during the recent elections using drug monies to buy votes.”
In the MILF’s view, a holistic approach is needed to address the drug problem. “The greater challenge in this campaign is not to secure hundreds to thousands of pushers and users surrendering but to ensure that the sources, the pushers, and users are effectively contained.”
Prior to the official rebel directive, it has been common knowledge that the local command of the MILF armed wing Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) covering parts of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur have been running after drug users and traders.
The BIAF in Lanao operates a rehab facility for drug dependents, and arrests, detains and metes out penalties to suspected drug traders.
The Lanao campaign resembles the Operation “Tokhang” in Davao City that the Philippine National Police (PNP) now wanted replicated throughout the country.
Sources said the local BIAF keeps a list of suspected traders “who were given time to mend their ways” while also being tracked if they have moved to another area.