World Bulletin / News Desk
Col. Rodrigo Gregorio of Joint Task Force Sulu's Information Support Team said in a statement that reports on the Daesh-linked group's use of drugs are based on the findings of numerous military units based in the southern Zamboanga peninsula and the majority Muslim island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
Authorities have long suspected the Abu Sayyaf’s role in trafficking, particularly of methamphetamine -- known as shabu in the Philippines -- the use of which is rampant in almost all cities and provinces of the country.
The military has also suspected that the group’s fighters take meth during gun battles due to the aggressive behaviors its members have been observed to display.
"Reports coming from line units indicate that those engaging the troops are mostly young recruits who are most probably high in certain drugs particularly shabu as evidenced by paraphernalia being recovered from the belongings of dead ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] and in their lairs," Gregorio said Thursday.
"Drugs are being used to lure youngsters who may have been given shabu for free and later on recruited once they are addicted to it,” he added.
Gregorio revealed that during debriefing, several hostages released by the group had recounted seeing Abu Sayyaf guards constantly under the influence of drugs.
He quoted an Indonesian boat captain freed last week as saying that during his six-week-long captivity, he saw five to seven armed guards who were “always” using meth.
Having witnessed clashes between the Abu Sayyaf and government troops, the Indonesian described the effects of drugs on the militants, who he said treated the deadly firefights as “a sort of game”, according to Gregorio.
Gregorio blamed the proliferation of drugs in the southern Mindanao island region on the Abu Sayyaf working "in cahoots with big drug lords”.
Earlier this week, a suspect who confessed to being an Abu Sayyaf member was arrested in a drug buy-bust in Zamboanga City amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
The group is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.
It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.