OUR rewards system carry with it the caveat that it is “for information leading to” the arrest or killing of wanted persons. Meaning that the reward is not for government troops but for civilian tipsters or informants, the system having been set up to encourage the public to help track down notorious personalities. But nobody has come up with a study on how this has been implemented through the years.

It is an open secret that the reward system has been abused through the decades. Because money is involved it has also become a source of corruption especially among police and military operatives. The rewards, often amounting to millions of pesos, do not usually go to the tipster or informants but to their police/military handlers, if they have such, and to the operating units themselves.

That is why I was not surprised when the giving of the reward by the military to the habal-habal driver who informed the police about the presence of Abu Sayyaf Group elements in Clarin, Bohol weeks ago has gotten controversial. President Rodrigo Duterte had promised a reward of P1 million for every Abu arrested or killed after the clash in nearby Inabanga a couple of weeks before.

Reports say that the habal-habal driver received P450,000 during an awarding ceremony attended by Central Command (Centcom) and Bohol officials days ago. In the Clarin clash, four Abus, including former Inabanga resident Joselito Melloria, were killed, leading to speculations the tipster would get P4 million reward. That is why questions were raised on why the habal-habal driver only got P450T.

I won’t immediately cast aspersion on Centcom Chief Oscar Lactao especially because he has still to tell us how much was given for the reward and explain the logic of the rewards-sharing scheme. For all we know, the P450T may have been the correct amount. Details are needed for us to come up with an objective view.

But that does not take away the fact that the rewards system needs some sprucing up. Government can start by conducting a study on its implementation.

It’s not difficult to see how the rewards system is being abused. Why do you think law enforcers always exert extra effort in going after wanted personalities once price tags are dangled above their heads for their arrest? Often, it is only when the rewards are announced that arrests of wanted persons are effected. And sometimes, law enforcement units even compete with each other to get the arrests.

One can look no farther than the encounter in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano. Maguindanao in 2015 that resulted to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) elements. The police officials who conceived of the operation may not admit it but the fact that the Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan carried a US $5 million reward on his head was a big factor in the failings that happened later.

Or why would the then suspended police chief Alan Purisima and the then SAF commander Getulio Napenas decide not to coordinate with the military in the operation when Mamasapano was the military’s turf?