Maguindanao governor to mayors: help stop spread of ‘violent extremism’

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/17 May) — Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu has sought the help of the 36 mayors of the province in halting reported attempts by foreign visitors to spread the teaching of “violent extremism”.

Some foreign Muslim preachers have gone to some secluded parts of the province to teach bomb-making instead of the way to become a good Muslim, Mangudadatu told the mayors during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting Tuesday in this town.

He urged the mayors and barangay officials to monitor the madrasas (Islamic schools) for the possible presence of these personalities.

“These persons could easily dupe our locals especially poorly educated communities,” he said, adding their use of Arabic could impress locals even if what’s being taught is no longer what is right.

Major Arnel Dela Vega, head of Task Force Central from 6th Infantry Kampilan Division has vowed to provide all-out support to this campaign.

Dela Vega said they bombarded last week suspected lairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Salibo and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns.

The group was said to be coddling Malaysian and Indonesian terrorists.

The provincial government and the 6th Infantry Division signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation in the campaign against crimes and terrorism and in providing humanitarian assistance by sharing resources.

Last week an Ulama Summit was held in Cotabato City led by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to counter attempts to spread a radical interpretation of Islam in the Philippines.

Dela Vega, who attended the summit, said he expects similar efforts in the future which he said will be attended by more Muslim religious leaders.

Anti-Drugs Campaign

The PPOC meeting also tackled the campaign against illegal drugs.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) of Maguindanao said they had problems getting the cooperation of barangay officials who fear reprisal from the suspects.

PNP-Maguindanao said they are eyeing 1,256 drug suspects under Oplan Tokhang of this year.

Of this number, 57 had been arrested, three were killed in police operations, nine were already dead and 788 had surrendered. Six others had transferred their residences.

PNP-Maguindanao added that their crime solution efficiency for the period January 1-May 15, 2017 increased from 21% to 38% compared to the same period last year. They attributed the increase to pressure from President Duterte to intensify the campaign against crimes and illegal drugs.

Crime volume, however, increased by 10-percent from January 1 to May 15, 2017 compared to the same period last year.

Civilian casualties

At the meeting some local officials raised concerns on the safety of civilians during law enforcement operations.

Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan cited the case of two minors who were among the fatalities in an anti-illegal drug operation in his town.

He said the police in his town are now working with the Commission on Human Rights in the investigation of the incident.

He said he felt sad that some parents involved in drug trading would still choose to fight back government operatives even if it means endangering the lives of their children.

Mangudadatu said police officials, courts, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the military must ensure that similar incidents won’t happen again.

Mangudadatu Mayor Freddie Mangudadatu said the officer-in-charge of the municipal police office had difficulty going against drug suspects because some of them are influential politicians inclusing those who are related to him (Mangudadatu).

The OIC police chief is only a Senior Police Officer 3, he said.

“I told my policemen, even if they are my relatives, go and enforce the law. You have my word, we cannot allow drug trade to destroy our children”, he said.

The mayor said that one time he led the demolition of a house that was suspected to  be a drug den.

He said the resident is a relative who had moved to a nearby province. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)