9 killed, 8 hurt in anti-illegal drug operation in North Cotabato

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato (MindaNews/15 August) — Nine persons were killed and eight others were wounded in an anti-drug operation at dawn Sunday in a remote village of this town, an Army official said.

Col. Noly Samarita, commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade said a firefight erupted when troops went to Barangay Nabalawag to serve an arrest warrant on Moks Masgal alias Commander Mabrook were greeted with a volley of gunfire before reaching the target area.

An Army report identified four of the fatalities as PO3 Darwin Espallardo of the North Cotabato Police Office, two members of the 6th Division Reconnaissance Company identified as Cpl. Jose Miravalles and Pfc. Jaypee Duran, and an unidentified military guide.

Four followers of Commander Mabrook, including his brother, were also killed in the six-hour gunfight.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said eight government troopers sustained minor injuries and are undergoing medication at Camp Siongco hospital.

A military report identified five of them as Sgt. Arinio Grafil, Cpl. Diocesar Espanola, Pfc. Romnick Clerigo, Privates Normel Grande and Edgar Gegone, all of the 6th Division Reconnaissance Company.

Petinglay said Mabrook and his followers were engaged in illegal drug activities in the boundary of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Samarita said elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, North Cotabato police, military and the 6th Infantry Division Recon Company were approaching the village when the Mabrook’s men fired at them.

Senior Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, chief of the Cotabato provincial police said Mabrook is a former Moro Islamic Liberation Front sub-leader with about 50 armed followers.

Peralta said Mabrook was believed to be distributing shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao. A civilian identified as Daib Malimbas, a resident of Nabalawag, was killed during the shootout.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters provided air support, forcing Mabrook and his men to flee deep into the Maguindanao marshland.

The operatives seized several packs of shabu in the village. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)