Packs of shabu, drug paraphernalia seized by troops in Maute stronghold in Marawi

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, June 19) — Eleven kilos of methamphetamine or shabu with an estimated street value of up to P250 million (over $5 million), drug paraphernalia, and high-powered firearms were seized by the military in a house it believed to be a Maute group stronghold, officials said.

Military officials from Joint Task Force Marawi presented on Monday the illegal drugs discovered during clearing operations late Sunday.

"Soldiers spotted men in black emerging from a cluster of houses that prompted troops to maneuver. The terrorists put up a fight but fled while carrying items taken from one of the houses," it said in a statement.

When the troops entered a house, packs of shabu were found inside a bag in the kitchen, said 49th Infantry Battalion Captain Eric Estrevillo in the press briefing here. The illegal drugs were turned over to Joint Task Force Haribon.

Joint Task Force Marawi Spokesperson Jo-Ar Herrera said the 11 kilograms of possibly high-grade shabu is pegged to be worth between P100 million to P250 million.

Armed Forces Spokesperson Brigader General Restituto Padilla said in a Malacañang press briefing on Monday that 11 packs of shabu, weighing one kilo each were found at a "formerly Maute-Daesh/ISIS occupied positions in many instances during the clearing operations."

The military refused to give the exact location where the drugs were seized as an investigation is underway. The military has retaken most of the city, but there are at least four barangays that contain pockets of fierce resistance from Maute.

AFP: Maute members are drug users

The Maute group use shabu to keep them awake and give them the energy to fight, said Estrevillo.

"Ginagamit para makatagal sa labanan, para magtagal yung labanan, para gising sila para makapaglaban nang matagal," he added.

[Translation: They use it so they can last long in the fight, so the fight can last longer. They use it to keep themselves awake.]

The Marawi crisis enters its fifth week. As of Sunday, the military said it has killed 257 terrorists and recovered 250 firearms.

Joint Task Force Ranao Commander Ramiro Rey said that troops reported the Maute members looked high from drugs.

"Sabi nila medyo lax na rin sa security, parang bangag," he said.

[Translation: They said the armed men are becoming more lax in security, they seem high.]

Drug paraphernalia and four high-powered firearms such as an M14 rifle and AK-47 gun were also found in the house.

"May foil, lighters. Parang kabubukas lang," Estrevillo said.

[Translation: (We seized) foils, lighters. (The bags of shabu) look like they were just opened. We just taped it.]

Drug laboratory in Marawi?

The military said it is looking into the reports of civilians that there is a drug laboratory here.

President Rodrigo Duterte on June 1 said the illegal drug trade fuels local terror groups' activities. He said Marawi City is a "bedrock" for shabu manufacturing.

Sixty-two government forces have been killed in action. Twenty-six civilians have been confirmed killed by terrorists.

Padilla said enemy resistance continues to wane and enemy-held areas continue to diminish. 

"Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy-held positions as evidenced by the recovery of cadavers of terrorists and their firearms, computers, and peripherals, as well as communications equipment and accessories," he said.

Some 1,637 civilians trapped in the fighting were rescued, the military said, adding that Maute group uses civilians as human shields and mosques as safe havens.

CNN Philippines' David Santos, Lara Tan contributed to this report.