NARCOTICS agents, police and soldiers raided the house of Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez in Sarangani province and found P5 million in illegal drugs and high-powered firearms, after authorities tagged him as a protector of Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said about a kilo of shabu was found inside Lopez’s house when PDEA agents, police and military, armed with a search warrant, raided the premises.
The raiders also found a list of Lopez’s associates, as well as explosive devices and ammunition.
Lopez was not in his house when narcotics agents swooped down on it, but later turned himself in to Senator Manny Pacquao, who used to be the congressional representative of Sarangani province.
Pacquiao then turned Lopez over to the PDEA.
Reports said Lopez was an alleged protector of the Ansar Al-Khaifa Philippines, a terrorist group under the command of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, also known as Tokboy.
The military earlier claimed that Maguid was responsible for a series of bomb attacks in several areas of Mindanao.
The military on Friday said areas held by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao and Cotabato could see a spillover from the fighting in Marawi City, where a soldier was shot dead Friday by a terrorist sniper.
“The most threatened areas are in Maguindanao and Cotabato. Because there remains in those areas sizable numbers of armed men who have pledged allegiance to this—the group who are in Marawi,” military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla told reporters in a Palace news briefing.
Padilla said that they continue to watch closely the developments in the areas of the 6th Infantry Division under the Western Mindanao Command to control the movements of armed elements.
Resistance from terrorist groups continue in the remaining seven to eight hectare battle zone in Marawi, with another soldier killed due to sniper fire Friday morning.
“Early this morning, we had an incident when we were operating in an area and incurred another casualty through a sniper fire,” Padilla said.
“And it’s a sad development because we were expecting that as we engage more in these remaining areas and have better control of the peripheral areas in and out of this area, we’d be able to minimize that,” he added.
“But unfortunately, we still face a very tenacious enemy who is determined to defend their area.”
Newly appointed Philippine Army commanding general Maj. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista said Thursday that certain groups are planning to infiltrate other municipalities in Mindanao in a bid to “replicate” the siege Marawi City to other municipalities as part of diversionary tactics.
He said it would be necessary to implement military rule in Mindanao as the rehabilitation efforts continue.
Padilla said that they are also dealing with the Abu Sayyaf group in the Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi as incidents of attempted abductions were reported.
While President Rodrigo Duterte predicted the end for IS-inspired groups, the military said they need to ensure the safety of about 40 hostages still being held by some 40 to 50 Maute group terrorists.
He agreed with Bautista, however, that the Marawi crisis would end before the Philippines hosts the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in November.
In the same news briefing, Padilla said the Armed Forces is studying the possibility of taking legal action against groups that may be found to be accessories to the rebellion in Marawi after some groups threatened to file charges against the AFP’s offensive operations in Marawi.
He said since the start of the crisis, these groups have exhibited indications that “they may have been partial to the terrorists or the rebels in the areas.”
“And if we do find out and find good evidence stating and proving this, we will initiate the necessary legal actions to make them answerable for their crimes,” Padilla said.
“Again, the state has the right to defend itself and the offensives carried out in Marawi were in pursuit of that because we would like to bring back the rule of law and law and order in the area,” he added.
Clearing operations are also ongoing in the conflict areas, with about 200 buildings and facilities yet to be cleared of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices planted by the terrorists.
As of Oct. 5, a total of 155 government troops have been killed in the protracted Marawi crisis.
So far, 753 Maute fighters and their allies have been killed. Among the civilians, 47 were killed and 1,750 were rescued.