Army from 65th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division confiscated 12 high-powered firearms inside an SUV in Marawi city last January 23, 2013.
Lt. Col. Ralph Raul Sespeñe, commander of the 65th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division and his men during the confiscation of 12 high-powered firearms inside an SUV in Marawi city last January 23, 2013.

In Lanao, it’s Moro rebels out, criminal syndicates in.

Claimed Capt. Arthur Dumalagan, civil military operation officer and army’s acting public affairs officer at the 65th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, stationed at Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.

“We are confronting lawless groups today, not the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Organized syndicate leaders are our enemy now, they strike us with hit and run tactics,” disclosed Dumalagan.

On Friday their Comelec security checkpoint area in Marawi city was sprayed bullets by about seven high-powered armed men onboard two vehicles and are believed to be members of “lawless elements” operating in the said city.

One Pfc. Howard John B. Abellana was killed during the exchange of gunfire.

Dumalagan believed the suspects were making retaliations due to several heavy firearms their army unit confiscated during their recent Comelec checkpoint operations.

“We have no other enemies here in Marawi City right now except the lawless groups who are engaging into illegal logging, carnapping, kidnapping, and drugs trafficking,” Dumalagan said, also stressing that when ceasefire was declared in Mindanao since the previous administration they were not able to have armed clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front anymore.

“We had no recorded MILF encounters since the ceasefire was declared in 2009…We’re happy because we will not be fighting them (MILF) with our weapons anymore. Instead we will be joining forces in fighting criminality, conducting rehabilitation in Lanao.”

The MILF are starting to go down and walk freely in the city without their fire arms because it is the agreement to keep their weapons in their camp, according to Dumalagan.

Asked if these heavily armed men could be members of private armed groups used during election period, Dumalagan answered: “ I have no right to pinpoint them today…Nasaktan sila nung napatay namin ang leader nila last year kaya hangang ngayon gumaganti pa sila.