Policeman, 12 Suspected Drug Traffickers Killed in Shootout in Southern Philippines

Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem
Sultan Kudarat, Philippines
2021-01-23
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Policeman, 12 Suspected Drug Traffickers Killed in Shootout in Southern Philippines Police examine high powered rifles recovered from alleged drug dealers following a security operation in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines, Jan. 23, 2021.
[Mark Navales/BenarNews]

A police officer and 12 alleged members of an illegal drugs syndicate were killed in a pre-dawn shootout in the southern Philippines on Saturday, security forces said about the latest eruption of violence in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The clash occurred when police and members of the Philippine Marine Corps were attempting to serve a search warrant to Pendatun Adsis Talusan, in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province, security forces said.

Talusan and his companions resisted and shot at law enforcement officers, said Maj. Esmael Madin, the head of the provincial criminal investigation and detection group.

“We were supposed to serve the search warrant, but the suspects fired at us. Talusan’s group was involved in a series of shooting incidents targeting police and military personnel,” Madin said.

Talusan, a former village chief in the area, faced charges of robbery with homicide, double frustrated murder, and illegal possession of firearms, Madin said.

“This group was engaged in illegal drug trading,” a police incident report said.

Madin said that 12 suspects, including Talusan, and a policeman, were killed in the violence. Two police personnel were wounded.

An assortment of firearms and ammunition were recovered from the suspects, he added.

A BenarNews reporter saw the area’s residents sobbing as they came out of their homes hours after the security operation ended. They had been trapped inside since dawn when the shootout began.

“I thought we would die, but we prayed to god to spare my family,” said Reymond Blatas, a construction worker and a father of three.

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A woman cries as she and her family emerge from their home after being trapped inside during an hours-long shootout between suspected drug dealers and law enforcement officials in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines, Jan. 23, 2021. [Mark Navales/BenarNews]

The incident took place days after a town mayor, Christopher Cuan, of Libungan town in North Cotabato province, was gunned down with his driver in a roadside attack.

According to witnesses, the attack was carried out by four men in a sport utility vehicle who were tailing the victims.

President Duterte had said that Cuan was on a list of politicians and officials allegedly tied to drug traffickers.

Cuan had survived an assassination attempt in January 2019. He had been inside town hall when an unidentified gunman opened fire but missed, police had said.

The police last year said that nearly 8,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers had been killed since Duterte launched his war on drugs. Rights groups and activists however say that many more could have been killed.

 Last month, the International Criminal Court said that there was reason to believe that “crimes against humanity” had occurred in the Philippines, and that a final decision on whether to prosecute Duterte would be made this year.

 Duterte faces two murder complaints before the ICC, filed by relatives of some of those killed, and by a former police officer and a self-styled assassin who accused Duterte of ordering the deaths of opponents and criminals when he was mayor of Davao city.

 Froilan Gallardo contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.

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