2 Moro drug lords hide in MILF territory
(Philstar.com) - September 21, 2016 - 11:36am

TACURONG CITY, Philippines - Authorities are constrained from neutralizing two large-scale drug lords in nearby Maguindanao province by the proximity of their lairs to a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Relatives on Wednesday told The STAR Taipeh and Wang, whom they described as “big fishes,” have confined themselves in Barangay Kabuling at the border of Pandag and Paglas towns after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on June 30, but persisted with their drug trafficking nonetheless.

Barangay Kabuling is a recognized enclave of the MILF, covered by its July 9, 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with Malacañang.

Relatives of two Moro drug traffickers killed last month in a police raid in Tacurong City said they are certain the MILF central committee is unaware of how Taipeh and Wang have both been boasting of immunity from arrest owing to their being residents of a barangay covered by the interim security pact.

“Since they are in Barangay Kabuling, the police and the military cannot simply go there and arrest them,” said Taipeh’s uncle, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Barangay officials in nearby Tulunan town in North Cotabato said Taipeh and Wang are the key suppliers of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) in their municipality.

“They have a network that has peddlers in our municipality and in at least two other municipalities in Cotabato province,” said an Ilonggo barangay leader in Tulunan.

Barangay residents in Maguindanao’s adjoining Pandag and Datu Paglas towns said the duo have been bragging about their ownership of no fewer than a hundred assault rifles each, held by followers roaming freely in Barangay Kabuling.

Policemen and soldiers cannot simply intrude into the barangay to arrest the suspects without permission from the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, through its counterpart group in the government, which is comprised of police and military officials.

“Maybe it is unknown to the MILF leadership that there are commanders there coddling Taipeh and Wang because of blood ties,” a barangay official told The STAR.

Taipeh and Wang became so reclusive after Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and his younger brother, Khadafeh, an assemblyman in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), warned on July 11 to use an iron fist in implementing the anti-narcotics campaign of Duterte in areas they control politically. Over 190 drug dependents and peddlers surrendered that day.

Local officials confirmed that more than 30 drug peddlers in the second district of Maguindanao have mysteriously disappeared after the surrender rite in Pandag, where offenders voluntarily swore to reform before the Mangudadatus and the police director of Maguindanao, Senior Superintendent Nickson Muksan.

Residents also witnessed the deaths of 13 drug dealers in different areas in Maguindanao province, killed in one attack after another by gunmen from July 13 to early September.

The Army unit that has jurisdiction over Pandag and Datu Paglas, the 33rd Infantry Battalion, has been cautious in helping the police chase Taipeh and Wang, apparently restrained by the government-MILF ceasefire agreement.

The accord, forged in July 1997 in Cagayan de Oro City by government and MILF negotiators, enjoins both sides to mutually cooperate in neutralizing criminals and terrorists in flashpoint areas where there are recognized guerilla enclaves.

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