MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 25 May) — Ninesuspected drug personalities were killed in an hour-long firefight with government troops in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 11:30 p.m., Friday.
Senior Superintendent Maximo Layugan, provincial director of the Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO), said his men engaged the group of Dadting Kasan and Intan Aban, both targets of a search operation, when they raided their houses in Sitio Biao, Barangay Kilada in Matalam town.
None among the government troops was hurt during the operation, Layugan said.
Operatives of the CPPO, Matalam municipal police station, and other police units in North Cotabato, and the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Army, were armed with two search warrants issued by Judge Alandrex Betoya of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 16 based in nearby Kabacan town.
A search warrant was issued against Kasan, whom the police tagged as their “Target Number 1”; and another warrant was issued against Aban, tagged as PNP’s “Target Number 2.”
Layugan said that even before they could reach the area, they were fired at by the group armed with high-powered firearms.
He said the troops had no choice but to return fire.
Layugan has yet to identify those slain in the firefight but was sure the list included Kasan and Aban, their main targets.
They recovered from the crime scene assorted high-powered firearms and ammunition, including a homemade 50 sniper rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade.
The police have yet to ascertain if Kasan and Aban and their followers have links with drug syndicates operating in North Cotabato and in other areas in south and central Mindanao.
For Layugan, their “Friday mission” was successful because they were able to neutralize a group believed engaged in drug trafficking.
The raid on Friday night was the second biggest, in terms of the number of persons killed during the operation.
Early last year, at least 11 suspected drug personalities were killed after they also engaged with the authorities during the search operation, also in Matalam town.
On July 9, 2016, eight persons were killed and one was arrested in a police operation against an alleged notorious group involved in illegal drugs in Sitio Quiapo, Barangay Poblacion in Matalam, on the first days of the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs.
Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, who assumed as the new chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Saturday reiterated the military’s support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“We will sustain our active support in the PNP and PDEA’s (Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency) campaign on illegal drugs,” he said. (Malu Cadelina Manar with a report from Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)