CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippiines – A Muslim civil society organization joined government officials in condemning the death of five agents of the Phil. Drug Enforcement Agency in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PDEA-ARMM) in an ambush in a secluded area in Kapai town, Lanao del Sur on Friday.
The agents were on their way to Marawi City from Tagoloan II, Lanao del Sur conducting an anti-drug symposium with former drug dependents there when they were ambusshed in Barangay Malna in Kapai.
“Our group strongly [condemns] the killings of PDEA agents in Kapai LDS,” said Drieza Lininding, chairperson of the Moro Consensus Group (MCG) in a statement he posted on social media over the weekend.
MCG was organized at the height of the war in Marawi last year and has been very vocal against the government’s military offensive and the post-conflict rehabilitation efforts in the besieged city.
Lininding said they don’t want this incident to be used by “hawkish officials” in the government to justify the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
He said PDEA and other government authorities should not “travel lightly” when they move around Lanao del Sur, adding that they must first coordinate with local government units in the area and to observe ceasefire mechanism when traveling to far-flung destinations.
“We must bear in mind that hundreds if not thousands of Meranaws were killed during Marawi siege,” including those who fell victims to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
“We cannot control their (victims) relatives,” Lininding added.
Meanwhile, Lanao del Sur Gov. Bejoria Soraya Adiong has urged the law enforcers to conduct a full investigation on the ambush.
“I call on the Philippine National Police to make a swift and thorough investigation on this incident. I am confident the local government of Kapai, Lanao del Sur will fully cooperate with the PNP to bring justice to the victims and their families,” Adiong said in a statement relayed to the media on Saturday.
Upon the request of the PDEA, the provincial health office provided vehicles to retrieve the bodies of the killed agents and bring them back to Cotabato City on Friday night.
Adiong said Brigadier General Ramiro Rey, commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao, has deployed some soldiers to accompany the province’s retrieval team to ensure their safety.
“The Provincial Governemnt of Lanao del Sur fully condemns this criminal act and we ask the authorities that the perpetrators immediately face the consequences of their action,” she added.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino has also issued a statement condemning the deaths of the anti-narcotics operatives.
“This act of inhumanity and cowardice, taking the lives of our comrades in a surprise attack, will not just pass as another common incident in our day to day operation on the fight against illegal drugs,” Aquino said.
In an interview on Saturday, Aquino said three drug groups could be behind the ambush. (davaotoday.com)