Maguindanao clan leaders on the run after drug raid
KIDAPAWAN CITY — The mayor and vice mayor of a Maguindanao town are now on the run after escaping during a police antidrug raid on their house more than two years after one of them landed on President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of narcopoliticians.
Mayor Vicman Montawal, of Datu Montawal town, and his father, Vice Mayor Ottoh Montawal, fled when 50 heavily armed police officers from the Philippine National Police-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PNP-ARMM) barged into their house in the village of Talapas to serve search warrants for gun possession and illegal drugs.
Police were armed with warrants issued by Judge Alexander Betoya, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16, against the mayor, vice mayor and Vicman’s brother, Andy.
Vice Mayor Montawal was among the officials of Maguindanao publicly named by the President in August 2016 as politicians involved in drugs.
A member of the raiding team told reporters that government forces had been coordinating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help locate the Montawals.
Police earlier reported two of the mayor’s armed security escorts were killed when they traded shots with lawmen.
Neighbors identified the slain escorts as Belag and Mantak, both surnamed Alon.
The same report said the three Montawals used a secret escape route at the back of the huge Montawal compound and fled toward Bulod, a swampy village accessible only by motorboat.
Krishel Montawal, wife of Vice Mayor Montawal, said the raiding team found no illegal drugs in their home.
She showed newsmen the family bedroom where police allegedly took some P3 million worth of jewelry and almost P400,000 in cash.
Reporters were barred from entering the Montawal compound while police clearing operations were ongoing.
Around noon, when police left, Krishel allowed reporters entry and showed them disarranged home appliances and other items including the safety box that contained pieces of jewelry and cash which was forcibly opened.
No one from the raiding team had issued a statement on the raid. The ARMM police force has yet to issue a statement.
Montawal repeatedly denied he was involved in drugs. Officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in ARMM have also declared the town, named after Montawal’s parents, as a drug-free municipality in 2017. —Edwin O. Fernandez
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