Thursday , April 26, 2018

Editorial: P1 million bounty

A CONCERNED citizen whose identity authorities refused to divulge recently put up a P100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of eight suspected Abu Sayyaf members who survived the clash with government troops in Inabanga, Bohol last week. But even before the public could digest fully the announcement, President Rodrigo Duterte upped the ante, sort of, by offering P1 million bounty per Abu Sayyaf member arrested or killed.

That’s a big amount but much smaller than the reward traditionally offered by the United States for information leading to the neutralization of terrorist leaders, or those higher in rank than the eight Abus evading the government’s security dragnet in Bohol. In 2002, Aldam Tilao, the high profile Abu Sayyaf leader known as Abu Sabaya, was killed in a clash. The prize on his head? US $5 million.

The theory there seems to be that the bigger the reward, the more eager the people would be in providing authorities with information on the whereabouts of the terrorists. But since no study has been conducted to support the belief, that remains in the realm of speculation. One thing is sure, though, is that the bigger the bounty, the more interested units of the police and the military would be in nabbing the targets.

Remember the encounter between elements of the Special Action Force (SAF) and Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015? The operation, which killed 44 SAF elements, succeeded in getting Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alais Marwan, who died in the clash. The US had pegged the bounty for Marwan at $5 million. While top government officials denied it, money must have been one of the factors in the eagerness of some of them to get Marwan and use the SAF as pawn.

Yet the awarding of the bounty after a successful operation has always been shrouded in mystery, which is understandable because of security concerns, especially for the tipster. Besides, pinpointing who gets the reward is tricky. Does the actual tipster really get the money? Interestingly, the eagerness with which units of the police and the military go after fugitives with prizes on their heads could give us a glimpse of how this reward system actually works.