• MILF, military turn over members of drug ring

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    Members of the military’s 602nd Infantry Brigade and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Mindanao Front turned over more than a dozen henchmen of Samad Masgal alias Commander Madrox, a notorious leader of an armed group involved in the illegal drug trade and operating in North Cotabato province.

    The men were arrested during operations conducted from October 5 to 11 2016 in Nabalawag, Kapinpilan, and Kadingilan in Midsayap, North Cotabato. The joint Government of the Philippines (GPH)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) as well as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) were tapped to help coordinate the operation since it was conducted in areas with strong MILF presence.

    “We’ve seen in the last six days the determination of the MILF and the government forces to enforce the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to launch an all-out campaign against illegal drugs and criminality,” Director Carlos Sol Jr. of the combined secretariat of the GPH-CCCH and the AHJAG said.

    The CCCH and AHJAG are composed of members from the GPH and the MILF with the International Monitoring Team as the third party.

    “We can see now people responsible for the criminality and the proliferation of illegal drugs, especially methamphetamine in the areas of operation,” Sol said.

    The arrested men were turned over the Philippine National Police (PNP).

    An operation conducted in August by the military and the MILF against the group of Commander Madrox resulted in the death of four of his followers. Three soldiers also died in the operation.

    “[T]he fight against illegal drugs transcends all affiliations and it even unites people with diverse backgrounds. We are very delighted that the coming together of the PNP, the AFP, and the addition of the MILF among our allies against illegal drugs is becoming a reality,” PDEA-12 Regional Director Lyndon Aspacio said.

    “[W]e all have a personal stake in this fight and I hope that in the coming days we will be seeing more of this operation,” he added.

    “Everything is clear with mutual trust and cooperation. We are here because of this. We are here to participate in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. Our cooperation has brought about one of our objectives and that is to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs,” PNP North Cotabato Provincial Director Supt. Emmanuel Peralta said.

    On July 12, 2016, the government and MILF panels signed an agreement to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in areas controlled by the MILF.

    The agreement allows for “information exchange/sharing which includes, but not limited to the submission of the MILF of a list of drug personalities identified in its area subject to validation of the law enforcement agencies” as well as to allow the MILF to “conduct information drive on the ill-effects of illegal drugs in the MILF affected areas as part of its demand reduction activities” among others.

    “When President Duterte came into power, the MILF formalized an agreement with the government that will allow it to lead the anti-illegal drug campaign in MILF controlled areas… This pursuit operation has resulted into better and peaceful lives for our stakeholders as well as stronger confidence between GPH and MILF forces,” MILF Central Mindanao Front Commander Gordon Sayfulah said.

    “I would like to commend this new administration for its strong commitment to end illegal drugs in our country. I would also like to express my gratitude to those who have been part of the operation which includes the operating troops and coordinating body,” the MILF leader added.

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