Philippines government signs pact with hardline Islamic group against drugs
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Philippines government signs pact with hardline Islamic group against drugs

WHILE they might disagree on the very nature of the state, both the Philippines’ central government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are steadfast in their opposition to drugs in the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao.

On Friday in Davao City, the Philippines government and MILF signed a protocol that sets the “cooperation and coordination mechanisms” in combatting drug use, reported local media outlet Minda News.

The protocol dictates terms on which MILF will cooperate with the government on cracking down on drug crime – particularly methamphetamine known as shabu – including providing 24 hours’ notice before raids in MILF-controlled areas.

It notes that MILF declares “the use, sale and proliferation of shabu as ‘haram’ and prohibited in Islam.”

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Flag of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Source: Wikipedia Commons

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President Rodrigo Duterte has presided over a bloody drugs war since taking power last June, with around 8,000 people believed to have been killed. Rights groups allege there is widespread extrajudicial killings with impunity and police abuses.

In late 2015, MILF reportedly launched its own crackdown on shabu which it declared was “the enemy of all and, therefore, should be fought together. A common enemy calls for a united front approach.”

In 2011, the long-time separatist group dropped its demands for independence, instead settling for semi-autonomy and sub-state status whereby it is prevented from having a role in national defence, foreign affairs, and postal services.

“The coordination will be smooth sailing when it comes to law enforcement operations. Today is another milestone between government and MILF,” said police spokesman Pierre Bucsit about the protocol on Saturday.

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A chair is seen in Marawi as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi, Philippines July 1, 2017. Source: Reuters/Jorge Silva

MILF denies alleged links to Al Qaeda and regional terror organisations like Jemaah Islamiyah and has condemned violence in Marawi City perpetrated by the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group.

“Now more than ever, the MILF and the government must work closely to ensure the protection of the gains of the peace process and to even forge with greater resolve to immediately implement the peace agreement,” said a MILF spokesman in May, as quoted by ABS-CBN News.

“We call on our forces to extend all necessary assistance to the people of Marawi to ensure their safety and frustrate the aim of any group or groups to sow divide in our communities. Let us all stand united to win peace for our people.”