• Drug suspects in Moro lairs urged to give up

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    KIDAPAWAN CITY: Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders have teamed up with village officials to convince suspected drug users and peddlers in their areas to surrender.

    The drive was enforced weeks after officials of the MILF and government agencies forged a separate agreement to show support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

    Members of the MILF, after signing peace agreements with the government, enjoy temporary immunity from arrest but they can be arrested for drug use.

    “This is an opportunity for everyone planning for a complete change that would not only benefit the MILF but also the government, their family and their health,” said Kagi Imbang Magandingan, a commander of the Maguindano-based MILF’s 108th Base Command with jurisdiction over villages in North Cotabato.

    “The MILF, as an organization, will not be liable for the capture of our members, who are suspected to be involved in illegal drugs,” Magandingan added.

    He sad the suspects were already identified by their organization but they have to “enlist themselves” again to surrender and clear their names.

    Magandingan is a son of late commander Magandingan Manalos, the subject of the Special Action Forces’ operation in Pikit town in 1995 that resulted in the death of more than a dozen government troops in a clash with Manalos’ forces led by Pakil Ayunan.

    He and other MILF commanders attended a forum called by officials of Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council in the village of Kibenes, Carmen town, recently.

    Kibenes is on the border of Carmen and Pikit towns, known lairs of the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other Muslim rebel groups.

    Officials admitted difficulties in convincing suspected users and pushers to surrender because of the presence of armed groups in the area and of their members involved in drugs.

    Kibenes Barangay Chairman Mohamad-Ali Palanggalan said aside from the forums, they were also doing house-to-house visits or “Oplan TokHang” to convince the suspects to turn themselves in even they have already surrendered to their mother units.

    Abdullah Hamsa, another MILF commander, led the uprooting and burning of two hectares of marijuana plantations in another village in Carmen town recently.

    Last month, 14 top MILF members in the village of Kabuling on the border of Pandag and Datu Paglas towns in Maguindanao surrendered to authorities.

    Many others were reportedly hesitant to surrender.

    MOH SAADUDDIN

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