Two platoons under the 33rd Infantry Battalion, together with anti-drug enforcers, exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen Saturday morning in an anti-narcotics operation in Maguindanao, resulting in the seizure of about P500,000 worth of illegal drugs, the Armed Forces (AFP) said.
The soldiers and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officers stationed in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) encountered about 15 armed men at Barangay Lipao, Datu Paglas, the AFP said in a statement.
After a firefight that lasted an hour, the AFP and PDEA captured 2 men and confiscated one M16A1 rifle and about 70 to 80 grams of what is believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) with an estimated street value of half a million pesos, plus various drug paraphernalia.
The firefight also resulted in 2 injuries on the government side due to shrapnel wounds. They were taken to the nearest hospital.
According to Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, the AFP was in pursuit of the rest of the group. The Armed Forces fully supports the government’s anti illegal-drug operations, Cabunoc said.
The PDEA was put in charge of the government’s war on illegal drugs, after the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) was disbanded on account of the death of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the hands of rogue officers.
Earlier this year, Duterte tasked the military to assist the PDEA during their anti-drug operations.
While the AFP is waiting for an executive order from President Rodrigo Duterte to formalize its role in the country’s anti-drug war, AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año said his men were ready to join PDEA operations.
The move to include the AFP in the administration’s war on drugs drew flak from Duterte critics including Senator Leila de Lima, who said the president’s order as commander-in-chief could only be used under certain conditions.