February 22, 2018, 3:32 pm
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11 kilos of shabu found in Maute lair

GOVERNMENT forces recovered on Sunday night 11 kilos of high-grade shabu following a firefight with members of the Maute Group who have been holed up in four barangays in the city since May 23.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla and AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the military was determining if the Maute brought the large quantity of shabu into Marawi City for their use.

“This is a matter being investigated and could have been part of their fund-raising schemes and to sustain their group. Remember, there was quite a number of them at the start of the conflict,” said Padilla.

“We are going to conduct further investigation to determine if these were manufactured there (in Marawi), whether they brought there, the surrounding circumstances there,” said Arevalo.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokeswoman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said the recovery of the shabu, placed in plastic packs, proves the Maute members are hooked on illegal drugs.

President Duterte, whose anti-illegal drugs campaign has left thousands dead, said in December that the Maute Group is being funded by the illegal drugs trade and its members “are driven by shabu.”

Petinglay said the shabu, along with four high-powered firearms, were recovered by troops from the 49th Infantry Battalion at around 6 p.m. from one of cluster of houses occupied by Maute members. 

“Soldiers spotted men in black emerging from a cluster of houses that prompted troops to maneuver. The terrorists put up a fight but fled while carrying items taken from one of the houses,” she said.

Petinglay said the estimated street value of the recovered shabu is between P110 million and P250 million. The illegal drugs were turned over Joint Task Force Haribon, prior to their turnover to another government agency for proper disposition.

Petinglay said government forces have recovered numerous sachets of shabu during the first and second week of the armed conflict. 

“Troops in the frontline say they are facing drug-crazed individuals who are evidently high on illegal drugs,” she said.

Wesmincom commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said the shabu recovered last Sunday “is the largest illegal drug haul so far.”

“This strengthens our findings that these terrorists are using illegal drugs  which, according to Muslim religious leaders, is `haram.’ These Maute and ASG terrorists are not Muslims. They have violated every tenet of the teachings in the Holy Quran,” said Galvez.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the Maute members have been using illegal drugs inside mosques. The armed group is also using the mosques as battle positions.

The fighting has resulted in the death of 257 Maute members, 62 soldiers and policemen, and 26 civilians, said Arevalo. The operations have also resulted in the recovery of 250 firearms.

Arevalo said the government forces are continuing efforts to recover and control “strategic vantage points” occupied by the Maute members.

“Enemy resistance continues to wane and enemy-held areas continue to diminish as government security forces press their advance,” said Arevalo.

Arevalo said P224,000 has been deposited at the Land Bank of the Philippines for slain soldiers and P21,000 for internally displaced persons.

“Coordination is ongoing between the AFP and a local government unit for donations of P20,000 each for the families of each of the deceased soldier,” said Arevalo.

The military has appealed to the public to deposit under the account of AFP Marawi Casualty (Account Number: 00000552107128) for slain soldiers and Marawi IDP (Account Number: 00000552107136).

Padilla said the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia formalized the conduct of joint maritime patrols in their common borders to curb the movement of the Maute Group.

He said the coordinated patrols aim to the prevent movement of fugitives seeking haven in another country and those planning to provide assistance to Islamic militants, as well as address piracy and abduction at high seas.

Asked about the possible role of the United States, Padilla reiterated the US is limited to providing technical and intelligence support. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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