COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's (ARMM) problem in illegal drugs is worse than terrorism, regional officials said.

Acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said there is an immediate need now for the deployment of non-resident special prosecutors to help in the litigation of drug trafficking cases in the region.

"The problem is worse than terrorism,” Hataman said during a meeting in Cotabato City on Monday of the ARMM’s regional peace and order council (RPOC).

Local officials present in the peace and order council meeting agreed with Hataman’s assessment.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Bombit Adiong, who has jurisdiction over 40 towns, said some members of local law enforcement units are not effectively discharging their functions for fear of getting engaged in a “rido” (clan war) with families of drug traffickers in their province.

“They don’t want to take risks because their families are vulnerable to retaliations,” Adiong said.

Local officials present in the RPOC meeting said that there are certain towns in the autonomous region that are being used as major transshipment points for the smuggling of shabu.

Participants to the meeting, among them Major. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo and the ARMM’s newly-installed police director, Senior Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, supported recommendations for the deployment of special prosecutors in the autonomous region to handle high-profile criminal cases.

Delos Reyes said he has received information that “narco-politics” is thriving in the autonomous region, but emphasized he still have to look into the matter.

“We need the support of all sectors in addressing the drug problem in the autonomous region,” he told reporters after the RPOC meeting.

Adiong, chairman of the Lanao del Sur provincial peace and order council, said they need more policemen in the province to help thwart possible attacks on families of agents over the the case of pyramiding scam suspect Jacob “Coco” Rasuman.

Rasuman, an ethnic Maranaw who hails from Marawi City, has been charged with syndicated estafa after failing to pay investors their supposed earnings from the money they invested on the investment racket.

Adiong said irate Maranaw investors have given the agents of Rasuman until February 28 to return their money, even without interests.

“We don’t know what will happen after this deadline if these people cannot get their money back,” Adiong said.

Several people identified with agents of Rasuman have been abducted in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur in recent weeks, and subsequently released only after their families raised the amounts demanded by their captors --- the despondent victims of Rasuman.