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Army battalion commander vows to pursue illegal drug lords in Maguindanao

DATU PAGLAS, Maguindanao, February 26 -- A newly designated battalion commander in Mindanao vowed to pursue anti-illegal drug campaign in support to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following the discovery and recovery of almost PHP500 million worth of prohibited drugs from suspected big time drug lord in a remote village here Saturday.

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion, led government forces and members of PDEA in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PDEA-ARMM) in launching an offensive against some 15 persons involved in illegal drugs in its hide out in the middle of banana plantation in Barangay Lipao here.

"We will take active roles now, we will cleanse our AOR of drug personalities," Cabunoc told reporters.

The anti-drug operation against Abdulatip Pendaliday, alias "Commander Gras Cutter," also led to the injury of two of his followers and two soldiers, including an Army lieutenant.

Cabunoc withheld the identities of the injured soldiers and the suspects “because follow-up operations are still going on against Pendaliday.”

Pendaliday, a known bigtime drug lord, has surrendered to the police during the implementation of “Oplan TokHang” last year with a promise he will do away with illegal drug trade.

As the soldiers were closing in on two shanties in the middle of vast banana plantation, Pendaliday's followers opened fire on government forces, triggering brief fire fight ensued that lasted about 15 minutes.

Then the drug pushers, including Pendaliday escaped to different directions. However, two of his followers were injured and arrested by government forces.

Cabunoc and PDEA operatives more than PHP500,000 methamphetamine hydrochloride, drugs paraphernalia, cash and an Armalite rifle.

Cabunoc said Pendaliday was trading illegal drugs in the middle of the plantation to avoid detection by pursuing PDEA operatives. His clients come in the guise of clearing the plantation of unwanted grass to secure the stuff.

After the firefight, Cabunoc then directed his men to bring the two wounded drug pushers to the 33rd IB headquarters and were given first aid treatment.

Cabunoc, former AFP public affairs office chief, assumed a week ago as chief of the 33rd IB. He vowed to cleanse his area of jurisdiction of illegal drug personalities in compliance to directive from AFP national headquarters. (PNA)

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