DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 April) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday announced he would give a million peso reward each for the capture “dead or alive” of Abu Sayyaf members who landed in Inabanga, Bohol last week as he vowed to arm civilians to “fight and kill.”
He told reporters in Tagbilaran City on Wednesday that the Abu Sayyaf’s foray into Bohol last week was part of the group’s kidnap-for-ransom activities, for which they deserve the punitive actions against them because “hiningi nila talaga ito” (they asked for this).
“My order is to the police and … even civilians who are interested to fight and kill, … (to get them) dead or alive,” Duterte said of the six Abu Sayyaf members who are reportedly still in Bohol.
He said he all he needs is a tip to the police and the military. “No questions asked, do not even give your name, sabi mo lang kung saan sila at gobyerno na ang bahala” (just say where the Abu Sayyaf are and government will go after them).
Aside from providing the police and military tips, Duterte also asked civilians to “kill.”
“I encourage civilians also to kill kasi dead or alive man ‘yan, may reward pero mas gusto ko ‘yung dead kasi ‘yung alive magpakain pa ako … magastos masyado” (because the order is dead or alive, there’s a reward, but I prefer them dead because if alive, I still have to feed them. It’s expensive), the President said.
He assured residents of Bohol that their province is safe and that he has more than enough officres “to fight of one year if need be.
He also bared a plan to interdict the Abu Sayyaf from going beyond the Mindanao Sea. The Abu Sayyaf is based in Sulu and Basilan.
“They must not reach the places … beyond the Mindanao Sea. Dapat doon lang sila. And we have the capability. Yun ang plano namin,” he said, adding they would employ satellite tagging to track them down.
“Parang i-tag ka namin sa satellite tapos malaman na namin kung sige ka biyahe. (We will use satellite tagging so we will know if you are often traveling). There was a good intelligence report. Kung makita ka namin, i-tag ka na namin so habang nagbi-biyahe ka (If we see you, we will tag you so while you are traveling), my orders to the Navy is kung positive, pasabugin na. Wala nang surrender, surrender” (if positive, destroy them. No more surrender).
“Ang sabi ko kanyunin mo na, wasakin mo” (I said bomb them. destroy them), the President said, adding in Cebuano “paglutaw-lutaw, tiwasan mo. Wala man makakita, ang isda ra man” (if they float, finish them off. Only the fish will see you), said Duterte.
He said the Abu Sayyaf will only go to a place if they have local contacts. “Most of them are criminals, most of them also … not all, not all, merong mga contacts dito na Balik Islam” (have contacts with Balik Islam members).
“Sometimes ‘yung mga Moro talaga” (Sometimes, it’s the Moro),” Duterte said, as he explained that the “racket” is to kidnap someone and sell them to professional kidnappers.
“So if I kidnap somebody here, even it he’s a small-time businessman, it’s like buy and sell, I pass him on to them for 200,000 pesos, they will pass him on to another until the demand reaches a million pesos,” Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino.
He said he went to Bohol “to warn everybody about the practice” before Duterte issuing his “dead or alive” order.
He said he intends to “arm the civilians” and if they get to kill someone, “you don’t have to worry. You just go to the police and make the report and state your truth. Wala kang problema, I’ll take care of you. I’ll pardon you or whatever.”
Asked how he will arm the civilians, Duterte said he will confer with local officials becuase they “might have some objections” and he would like to “hear first what would be the wherewithals in such a situation where we arm the civilians.”
Asked if the “dead or alive” order was only for the seven Abu Sayyaf members the military and police are still pursuing, Duterte replied: “No. Durugista ‘pag ka lumaban. Ang laban ko talaga dito is drugs and terrorist” (No. Those who are involved in drugs if they fight back. My fight here really is drugs and terrorist), as he again reiterated those who are involved in drugs are armed.
Asked how long the military operations will be in Bohol, he replied “I hope it would not reach that point where we have to choose the last option” or he would have to “invade Jolo.”
“Invasion na lang talaga. But maraming ma-disgrasya diyan civilians, bata… But ‘pag naipit na ang bayan (It will be an invastion. But many civilians will suffer, children.. But if the country is compromised) I will order the invasion of Jolo,” the President warned.
“Lahat ng Army, lahat ng Navy magpunta doon. Iyan bakbakan na talaga iyan. Kung iyan ang gusto nila, ibibigay ko” (All the Army, the Navy will go there. That will be war. If that’s what they want, I will give it to them),” he said.
Duterte is the firth Philippine President to attempt to destroy the Abu Sayyaf.
In late August, he ordered the the military and police to seek out the Abu Sayyaf and destroy them.
“Seek them out in their lairs and destroy them… Ang mga Abu Sayyaf destroy them, period,” Duterte said in a midnight press conference on August 24, hours after the Abu Sayyaf was reported to have beheaded Patrick James Almodovear of Sulu, an 18-year old son of a court stenographer who was kidnapped by the terrorist group on July 16.
“My orders to the police and armed forces against all enemies of the state: Seek out, seek them out in their lairs, whatever and destroy them. Ang mga droga destroy them. Ang mga Abu Sayyaf, destroy them. Period.”
Duterte is the fifth Philippine President to attempt to destroy the Abu Sayyaf. Former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III had attempted to do the same but the Abu Sayyaf has remained, its kidnapping and other terror acts even worse than before.
Asked how different his war against the Abu Sayyaf will be from the previous administrations’, Duterte replied: “I’ll be harsh. But mind you, it’s not just a campaign-campaign. Go out and destroy them. So patay kung ano yan. Wag na kayong magtanong human rights. Even sa drugs.”
In 2000, then President Joseph Estrada, a former movie actor known for colorful language, waged an “all out war” against the Abu Sayyaf. His battlecry then was “Pulbusin ang Abu hanggang maging abo” (literally: crush the Abu until they turn into ash).
Hundreds of troops were deployed to Sulu, transport to and from the island province as well as telecommunications were cut off for several days in September 2000. Thousands of Sulu residents were displaced and the livelihood of thousands of farmers and fisherfolk was adversely affected as they could not farm and fish while the military operations were ongoing. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)