Southern Philippine police kill 7 alleged members of private armed group

Mark Navales
2022.06.22
Cotabato, Philippines
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Southern Philippine police kill 7 alleged members of private armed group Philippine police display seized weapons in front of a group of suspects taken into custody following a gunfight in Maguindanao province, June 22, 2022.
Philippine National Police handout

Seven alleged members of a private armed group in the southern Philippines were killed and a police officer was injured during a dawn shoot-out on Wednesday, the regional police chief said. 

Officers were about to serve an arrest warrant against Torque Uttoh Latip and his men on robbery and homicide charges at their hideout in Rajah Buayan town in Maguindanao province when a gunfight erupted, said Brig. Gen. Arthur Cabalona, police chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“Their armed followers opened fire on our troops. That triggered a shootout,” Cabalona said, adding a police officer and six civilians were injured.

“We recovered nine high-powered guns and seven dead bodies. We are determining if these persons are affiliated with our existing threat groups in Maguindanao,” he said. 

Those killed were drug dealers who also worked as body guards for local politicians, alleged a Maguindanao police source who was not authorized to speak to the media.

In April, Philippine police said they had disbanded about 20 private armed groups working for politicians ahead of the May 9 election. Most of the disbanded armed groups were from the autonomous Muslim region in the south.

The constitution stipulates that private armies and other groups not recognized by the government shall be dismantled.

The Philippines, with its long-running gun culture, coupled with feuding clans in tribal areas as well as rival political dynasties trying to outdo each other, has faced violence linked to private armed groups.

During the 2016 general election, as many as 50 people died in poll-related violence, according to police statistics.

The bloodiest election-related violence occurred in November 2009 when members of the Muslim Ampatuan clan massacred 58 members of their rival clan, the Mangudadatu, their supporters and local journalists.

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