A lawmaker has called for a congressional inquiry into suspected involvement of local officials of Sulu province in trading of illegal drugs and aiding of terrorists now that the National Police Commission (Napolcom) has ordered stripping the Sulu governor and 13 other provincial mayors of their powers over local police for the same unlawful activities.
Rep. Munir Arbison of Sulu made the call recently under House Resolution 1137, noting that local officials are supposed to be at the forefront of the government’s war on illegal drugs and terrorism.
“We need to get down to the bottom of this. Otherwise, the sacrifices of our young and gallant soldiers will just be in vain,” Arbison said in a statement.
Mindanao, which covers Sulu, has been declared under martial law since May 23 by President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Congress has granted a five-month extension of martial law and warrantless arrests in Mindanao as requested by the President last week to suppress persistent rebellion from four groups—Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf Group, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The Napolcom resolution was released on June 4.
Aside from the local officials of Sulu, also stripped of police powers were Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and 28 Maguindanao mayors; Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. and 37 Lanao del Sur mayors.; Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo and 22 Lanao del Norte mayors; Gov. Datu Pax Pakung Mangudadatu and 12 Sultan Kudarat mayors; Gov. Hadjiman Salliman and 10 Basilan mayors; Gov. Nurbert Sahali and nine Tawi-Tawi mayors; and Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi of Cotabato City.
“A scan of the spate of kidnappings that happened in the last 10 years will reveal that local Sulu officials played an indispensable role in kidnapping in the guise of negotiation for ransom in the spate of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf Group,” Arbison said in his resolution.
“The Napolcom resolution already points us to the truth that we must all seek out, if we are to fully liberate Sulu and Mindanao from quagmire of extremism and senseless war,” he added.
Arbison cited a copy of an affidavit dated April 12, 2017 and executed by Olaf Ihlau, former editor of German news magazine Der Spiegel, who disclosed that he personally brought the ransom allegedly to the residence of former Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan in exchange for the release of Andres Lorenz in July 2000.
“The inquiry in aid of legislation should result in possible review and amendments of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of the Revised Penal Code, Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, RA 6975 or the Philippine National Police [PNP] Law and the newly-approved RA 10927 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act,” he said.
In March, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed frustration in the increase in the number of Abu Sayyaf hostages from 18 to 31 since President Rodrigo Duterte took over on June 30, 2016.
“There is no way for President Duterte to succeed in his war against illegal drugs and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups if public officials of local government units who are supposed to be in the forefront of our difficult and long battle against these criminals are playing footsies with drug lords and kidnap-for-ransom groups,” Arbison said.
LLANESCA T. PANTI