Lanao Del Sur

MILF snatches, detains 9 drug suspects in Lanao del Sur

Merlyn Manos
MILF snatches, detains 9 drug suspects in Lanao del Sur

TALKS. Colonel Billy Dela Rosa, the commander of the Army's 103rd Brigade, talks to villagers complaining about the detention of nine men in an MILF camp in Lanao del Sur.

103rd Brigade

The MILF takes a group of drug suspects to its camp, detains, and subjects them to a 20-day rehabilitation program as part of its version of the anti-drug 'Tokhang' campaign

ILIGAN, Philippines – A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) group has launched its version of the anti-drug campaign in Lanao del Sur, employing methods that were greeted by raised eyebrows in the province.

The group handed over nine men, all tagged as “drug personalities,” to military authorities in Bayang, Lanao del Sur on Wednesday, November 16.

The men were taken and held in an MILF camp for more than two weeks.

Authorities said there were complaints about the detention of the villagers by the MILF group led by Cosain Amerol alias Commander Delta of the 1st Brigade of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The same MILF commander was identified as Esmael Sarip Cosain in a November 8 communication sent by Brigadier General Eduardo Gubat, the chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH), to the MILF to protest the alleged violation of the peace pact and agreement on the general cessation of hostilities in Lanao del Sur.

Colonel Billy Dela Rosa, the commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade, received the MILF-tagged drug suspects at the headquarters of the 5th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Liong, Bayang, Lanao del Sur.

Dela Rosa said he earlier asked the Cosain to release the villagers so they could return to their families after weeks of being held in the MILF camp.

The MILF rounded up the men in Binidayan town, took them to a camp in the village of Marogong, and subjected them to a 20-day rehabilitation program as part of its version of the anti-drug “Tokhang” campaign.

For 20 days, the villagers were lectured on Islamic values and the ill effects of illegal substances and asked to read the Quran.

Dela Rosa said Cosain’s group had good intentions and asked the families of the detained men not to begrudge the MILF for it.

But while Dela Rosa was appeasing the families of the detained men, there were military and local officials who frowned over the methods employed by the MILF group.

Former Lanao del Sur 2nd District representative Mauyag Papandayan Jr. criticized Cosain’s methods. He said taking villagers and holding them in an MILF camp for weeks were unlawful.

Papandayan, who now serves as a municipal administrator in Tubaran town, also said the MILF cannot function like the police or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

He warned that the uncoordinated activities of the MILF group could result in misunderstanding and hostilities in Lanao del Sur later on.

“Detaining villagers on mere suspicion of drug links would not do the peace process any good,” Papandayan said.

Gubat made the same points when he brought the matter of Cosain’s group’s activities in Lanao del Sur to the attention of Butch Malang, the chairman of the MILF-CCCH.

In his protest letter, Gubat said some 150 MILF members raided the home of a former barangay chairman, fired their guns, and threatened to kill villagers in Balabagan town on November 6, supposedly as an anti-drug law enforcement operation.

Villagers, he said, complained of losing their money and belongings in the subsequent looting carried out by a group that included at least 10 fugitives with pending arrest warrants. – Rappler.com

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