Duterte offers P1-M bounty for remaining ASG in Bohol

(CNN Philippines, April 20) — President Rodrigo Duterte put a P1-million bounty for the remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits reportedly roaming the barangays in Inabanga, Bohol.

In an interview at the Tagbilaran City Port Wednesday, Duterte urged police and even civilians to fight and kill the remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that recently figured in a firefight with government troops in Bohol.

"Kaya 'yung anim na maybe scouring the safety nets kung saan sila maka-landing, I have a one million offer per person ako," he said.

[Translation: The remaining six who may be scouring safety nets wherever they may end up, I am offering one million pesos for each of them.]

The President also claimed Bohol had enough forces to maintain safety and security, especially since the province will host the ASEAN meetings next week.

Duterte hopes, however, the ASG members "must not reach the places where beyond the Mindanao Sea," or else he would be forced to use extreme measures.

"Because pagka ganon I will maybe invade Jolo. Invasion na lang talaga. But maraming madisgrasya diyan civilians, bata… But 'pag naipit na ang bayan, I will order the invasion of Jolo," he said. "Lahat ng Army, lahat ng Navy magpunta doon. Iyan bakbakan na talaga iyan. Kung iyan ang gusto nila, ibibigay ko."

{Translation: If that were to happen, I will maybe invade Jolo. But a lot of civilians will be caught in the crossfire, children. But if the country is in peril, I will order the invasion of Jolo. All of the Army, Navy will go there. The fighting will be fierce. If that's what they want, I will give it to them.}

AFP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that he was thankful for the bounty placed on the heads of the bandits still roaming the area.

"The offer of the President was a welcome move and we thank the commander-in-chief for this. Hopefully, this will encourage informants and other concerned citizens to help expedite the arrest of these bandits," Padilla said.

Duterte was in Bohol for briefings on ASEAN meetings and updates on the Inabanga clash.

Other government officials who were present in the meeting were PNP chief Gen. Ronald de la Rosa, Exec Sec Salvador Meldadea, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, Sec to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr among others.

Deadline set to defeat ASG

The Duterte government has set a self-imposed deadline to defeat the bandit group in six months.

Read: Military aims to defeat Mindanao terror groups in 2017

That's in June — just before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his next state of the nation address in July.

A military spokesman says they are on track.

Col Edgard Arevalo, Chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP-PAO), said, "When you say defeat the Abu Sayyaf, that does not necessarily mean tactical defeat. Sapagkat hindi naman natin maasahan na lahat 'yan, magsisisuko, magsasalong ng armas."

[Translation: When you say defeat the Abu Sayyaf, that does not necessarily mean tactical defeat. Because we cannot assume that all of them will surrender and give up their arms.]

Expert warns military actions may not succeed

Former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan said with more ASG recruits and the recent Bohol incident, he feared it could be an alarming trend of terror groups attempting to expand operations - and the reported plan to kidnap foreigners and tourists in Bohol, may just be part of a bigger terror scheme.

Alunan said, "Kidnapping for ransom is not the main goal, it's just a means to raise funds...there's a method to the madness, there's a higher objective."

While the ASG plot to set up base in Bohol may have been thwarted, Alunan said it should serve as a wake-up call. Local officials will need to be on their toes against terrorists sneaking into their communities.

Aside from Bohol, the Abu Sayyaf had previously raided and carried out kidnappings in Palawan and Davao.

Meanwhile, a Muslim scholar reminds that it is wrong to stereotype Islam converts as terrorists.

University of the Philippines Professor Julkipli Wadi said, "Ang katunayan, ang karamihan ng balik-Islam ay hindi naniniwala sa terorismo or radikalismo. Sila, in fact, mas spiritual pa, eh kasya sa original na Muslim kung tawagin natin."

[Translation: In truth, most people who convert to Islam don't believe in terrorism or radicalism. In fact, they're more spiritual than those so-called original Muslims.]

But Wadi said there's no denying the converts were easily recruited - as they're most vulnerable to radical indoctrination.

"Because they are passionate, sobrang bago sa kanila ang Islam. Tapos may nagbulong lang sa kanila na ito yung tama, kapit sila kaagad," he said.

[Translation: Because they're passionate, Islam is very new to them. And when they hear people telling them that this is right, they believe in it immediately.]

CNN Philippines' David Santos and Bohol-based journalist Dave Albarado contributed to this report.