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Gov't, MILF sign cooperation agreement vs illegal drugs

FIGHT VS DRUGS. (L-R) Abdul Dataya, PDEA chief Isidro Lapeu00f1a,  DILG OIC Catalino Cuy sign the 'Protocol of Cooperation on Anti-Illegal Drugs Operations and Related Activities in MILF Areas/Communities' on June 30, 2017, in Hotel Elena, Davao City. Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

FIGHT VS DRUGS. (L-R) Abdul Dataya, PDEA chief Isidro Lapeu00f1a, DILG OIC Catalino Cuy sign the 'Protocol of Cooperation on Anti-Illegal Drugs Operations and Related Activities in MILF Areas/Communities' on June 30, 2017, in Hotel Elena, Davao City.

Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have agreed to cooperate in fighting illegal drugs in MILF areas.

Government and MILF representatives signed the "Protocol of Cooperation on Anti-Illegal Drug Operations and Related Activities in MILF Areas/Communities" on Friday, June 30, in Davao City.

The agreement includes general guidelines, operational procedures, and implementation of search warrants during the  joint anti-illegal drug operations.

The signatories are Chief Superintendent Pierre Bucsit and Brigadier General Earl Baliao on the part of the government, and Abdul Dataya and Butch Malang on the MILF side.

Under the agreement, all government-initiated operations against drugs in MILF areas or communities "shall be coordinated with the MILF-Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and be supervised by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to ensure the proper implementation of RA 9165.”

The agreement is meant to prevent violations of the long-standing ceasefire mechanism between the government and the MILF, and any possible misencounters between their forces.

The protocol will cover areas previously identified to be main MILF strongholds. This includes the following MILF camps and their surrounding areas:

Undersecretary Catalino Cuy,  Officer-in-Charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said the protocol is the product of a series of meetings with the MILF on the fight against illegal drugs inside Bangsamoro communities and MILF areas.

Law enforcers have had difficulty conducting anti-drug operations in MILF areas because of concerns that these may trigger unnecessary hostilities.

On October 21, 2015, the MILF recognized the ill effects of drugs and the rampant trading of shabu in Bangsamoro areas. The MILF has declared the use and sale of shabu has also been declared “haram”  or forbidden in Islamic law.

Bucsit, chairman of the GPH-AHJAG, said that the signing of the protocol will lead to more “smooth sailing” operations in Bangsamoro areas that he also acknowledged were difficult for authorities to enter.

“I believe the coordination now between government and MILF will be smooth sailing,” Bucsit said.

Baliao, chairman of the GPH-CCCH, recognized the importance of the protocol in facilitating proper coordination with their MILF counterparts/

“We do not have a problem before with the conduct of anti-illegal drugs in other areas, but [there are] many difficulties in MILF-controlled areas. Sometimes the coordination allows our target to get out from the areas. We believe, with the protocol, we will be able to efficiently operate with coordination and support from MILF in their controlled areas,” Baliao said.

Rappler.com