PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said he is offering a P1-million bounty for the arrest, “dead or alive,” of each of the Abu Sayyaf members involved in the foiled attack in Inabanga, Bohol last week.
The President, who said the Abu Sayyaf might try to “create a disaster” at a meeting of trade officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Bohol, said he also intends to empower civilians by allowing them to carry firearms so they can carry out his orders against the bandits.
The President was in Bohol yesterday, where presided over a security briefing for the Philippines’ hosting of the ASEAN summit this year, which includes meetings like the one being held in Panglao Island and the ASEAN leaders summit in Manila next week.
“I have a P1-million offer, per person. Tip lang. Bigay mo sa pulis pati sa military, no questions asked… Sabi mo lang kung saan sila, then gobyerno na ang bahala. (I have a P1-million offer, per person. Just a tip, give it to the police, the military, no questions asked… Just tell us where and the government would take care of it.),” he said.
He said there are six Abu Sayyaf members who were involved in the incident and escaped, and may be scouring areas where they could land or hide. He said he wants the police, or even the civilians, to arrest them “dead or alive” but prefers them to be dead so he would not need to spend to feed them.
“Ako, I encourage civilians also to kill, kasi dead or alive man iyan, may reward. Pero mas gusto ko iyong dead, kasi iyong alive, magpakain pa ako ... magastos masyado. (I encourage civilians also to kill, dead or alive, there will be a reward. But I prefer dead because if alive, I still have to feed them. It will be too costly),” he said.
The subjects of the reward are part of the 10 to 12 Abu Sayyaf men encountered by Army soldiers in Inabanga town last April 11.
Four of the Abu Sayyaf men were killed in the clash.
A poster being distributed by the Army’s 302nd Brigade showed eight Abu Sayyaf men remaining. They were identified as Joselito Milloria, alias Richard, alias Asis, Alias Ubayda, alias Poy, alias Dah, alias Saad, and alias Um Amra.
The group arrived Bohol on the evening of April 10 to kidnap foreign and Filipinos in tourist areas Bohol. They stayed at the house of civilians Constantino and Crisenta Petalco, both in their 60s, who ended up killed in the fighting.
Capt. Jojo Mascariñas, civil military operations officer of the Army’s 302nd Brigade which is supervising military operations in Bohol, said the military believes the suspects are still in Bohol.
He said the suspects are armed and are still capable of “causing harm” to anyone. “They are still a threat,” said Mascariñas of remaining members of the group.
Duterte said would consult with local government officials who may have objections to arming of civilians, but he assured the public he is willing to pardon the civilians if they are charged for having killed someone in connection with his order to arrest the Abu Sayyaf.
He said his “dead or alive” order applies to terrorists and those who are involved in illegal drugs, who are armed and will put up a fight with arresting officers.
The President also said that he had directed the security forces to contain the terrorist threat in Mindanao and ensure that it does not go beyond the Mindanao sea, saying if it spins out of control, he would not hesitate to take his “last option” which is to “order the invasion of Jolo.”
Duterte said the military and police are capable of monitoring the movements of the terrorists using a satellite-based tagging system.
“’Pag naipit na ang bayan, I will order the invasion of Jolo. Lahat ng army, lahat ng Navy magpunta doon (If the country is pushed to a corner, I will order the invasion of Jolo. All of the army, all of the navy will go there.),” he said.
The Bohol clash followed warnings against travel to central Philippine islands by several Western countries, which cited unconfirmed intelligence of possible kidnap plans. The clash erupted after residents tipped off authorities about the arrival of armed men on boats.
The incident was highly significant, coming during Holy Week at a location far from Abu Sayyaf’s traditional field of operations – Jolo and Basilan.
AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año targets to finish the group with the first half of the year.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council Director-General for Operations, said recent events including the attack in Bohol, had led to the further beefing up security preparations in Bohol and other areas where the ASEAN meetings will be held.
He said foreign embassies have asked about the security preparations especially with ASEAN heads of state expected to arrive next week for a the leader’s summit.
“We left it to our committee on security to make the proper recommendations because they had the competence to say whether the meeting should go on or not. And up until yesterday (Tuesday), they felt that the situation has been contained and therefore, the meeting should go on. It was natural, of course, for some of the embassies to ask us our plans,” he said.
Paynor said the government has alternate plans, including moving the meetings to other places.
“But we always say we will not be coerced or held hostage by these actions. But at the same time, we need to be sure that we can assure the safety of the delegates. So as of now, the meeting is a go,” he added.
The Philippines, as ASEAN chairman, is hosting 137 meetings, two summits, 17 ministerial meetings, 42 senior officials meetings, and 76 technical working group meetings spread out in 2017.
The summit on April 29 will be attended by leaders of all 10 ASEAN member-states, while the November summit will be attended by over 22 important persons including the heads of state of the ASEAN member countries and its dialogue partners like the United States, Russia, India, China, Japan, Korea, European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and East Timor.
He said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to attend.
He said even US President Donald Trump is expected to be present in November after he verbally confirmed to President Duterte that he is coming.
Paynor also said that apart from the ASEAN Leader’s Summit, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia would be in the country ahead of the other leaders for a “state or bilateral” visit.
He said Bolkiah and Widodo would also have bilateral meetings with Duterte when they arrive on April 27 and on April 28, respectively. Widodo is also expected to join the President at the launching of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Ro-Ro sea linkage route on April 30 in Davao.
Paynor said Laos has also requested to pay a courtesy call on Duterte but it is still being worked out.
He expects the other ASEAN leaders to have “pull-aside” meetings with the President instead. – With Victor Reyes and Reuters