COTABATO CITY – Police operatives allegedly arrested suspected "narco-politician" Talitay Vice Mayor Abdulwahab Sabal Thursday afternoon at the Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat.
According to employees and security officers of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) who witnessed the incident, Sabal was at the airport’s arrival area when he was approached by alleged operatives of the Mindanao Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).
Speaking with ABS-CBN News Friday morning, Sabal’s younger brother Morsheed Manibpel, a councilor in Talitay, said his family does not know where the vice mayor is.
They have not been able to speak with him, Manibpel said, and were not told why the vice mayor was taken into custody.
"Kami ay nananawagan na saan man yung kapatid namin, sana ilabas ninyo at ipa-contact sa amin para naman malaman namin yung status nila," he said.
("We are calling on those who took my brother to release him, and let him get in touch with us so we will know how he is.")
Manibpel said that the alleged AIDG operatives gave chase to a companion of the vice mayor, who was in a vehicle at the airport, but he evaded capture.
Sabal, the vice mayor of Talitay, Maguindanao, was included in a list of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, which was released by President Rodrigo Duterte last month. His brother, Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal, was also included in the list.
Mayor Sabal is currently on Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The siblings earlier appeared before PNP Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to clear their name.
The mayor and vice mayor were both officers of the Philippine National Police before entering politics. Their two younger brothers are also policemen.
Mayor Sabal had admitted that he was involved in the illegal drug trade "long before" he entered politics, but that this was no longer the case.