1 killed, 3 arrested, village chief flees war on drugs in Midsayap

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 16 July) – A suspect was killed while three others were arrested Friday dawn during a raid on suspects involved in the illegal drugs trade but the main target of the operation, the barangay chair of Barangay Tugal, escaped, police said.

Supt. Maximo Sebastian, PNP-12 special anti-illegal operations unit head, identified the slain victim as Areen Kulilong, who allegedly traded shots with law enforcers.

Kulilong expired in a hospital in Midsayap.

Sebastian said his team, armed with search and arrest warrants, was implementing “Oplan Double Barrel” against Peng Kulilong, chair of Barangay Tugal

“He is subject of our one time big time illegal drug operation from organized crime group and drug personalities operating in North Cotabato,” he said, adding hat the barangay chair’s group is “well organized and well-armed.”

“Oplan Double Barrel” is the Duterte administration’s campaign against prohibited drugs. The upper barrel is supposedly intended to get “high-value” and supply-side targets while the lower barrel, which makes use of “Oplan TokHang” (knock and appeal), is designed to flush out “low-value” and demand-side targets.

Sebastian said they were approaching the village of Tugal at 5 a.m. when met by bullets from a small armed group led by Areen Kulilong, nephew of the village chair.

He said Areen’s group, stationed a few meters from the village chair’s house, traded shots with members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office, the Special Action Force and North Cotabato police personnel while the village chair and his men escaped towards Ligawasan Marsh.

No one was slain or injured from the police side.

Seized from the arrested suspects who were not named, were a 9 mm pistol, an Uzi sub-machine gun, caliber 45 pistol with ammunition and suspected shabu with an estimated street value of P60,000.

On July 9 at about 2:30 a.m. , eight persons suspected of engaging in the illegal drugs trade in Matalam, North Cotabato, including three who surrendered to the police hours earlier, were killed in a police raid

Sebastian, who also led the raid, said they came under heavy fire when they were about to serve the search warrants at 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Purok Islam in Barangay Poblacion but relatives of the eight persons who were killed in that operation claimed the victims could not have fired at the police because they were asleep.

PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa told MindaNews in a telephone interview on July 10 that no complaint had been filed against the operatives but urged relatives of the victims and those in similar situations elsewhere to file formal complaints before the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS).

Dela Rosa said what happened in Matalam and other operations are contained in a report of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) but “if there are complaints regarding any of these, we’re willing to entertain. We will not cover up. We will be conducting an investigation.” (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)