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Who will get millions in bounty for terrorists’ deaths?

MANILA, Philippines — With the millions in bounty for the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, the government is now ready to look into the backgrounds of the civilian tipsters who led authorities to the lair of the two slain terror leaders in Marawi City.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military has taken DNA samples from Hapilon and Maute to officially confirm their deaths.

Padilla said it will take some time to process the DNA results but the bodies have been positively identified as belonging to Hapilon and Maute. 

He said the US State Department needed the DNA for processing of the reward.

Padilla added the joint AFP and Philippine National Police’s rewards and validation committee will conduct a review of the civilian tipsters information that led to the neutralization of Hapilon and Maute on Monday.

Padilla pointed out the Philippine government and US federal agencies including the State Department are the sources of the bounty.

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Hapilon was on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” list for “conspiracy to hostage-taking resulting in death, hostage-taking of a US national outside the US and conspiracy to use and carry a firearm, and aiding and abetting and causing violence.”

The US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the conviction or apprehension of Hapilon, who was considered as “armed and dangerous.”

President Duterte earlier offered a P10-million bounty for Hapilon, on top of the $5-million reward offered by the US. 

A P5-million bounty was also offered for each of the Maute brothers.

Hapilon was a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf and was personally involved in the kidnapping of 20 foreign and local tourists, including Americans Guillermo Sobero and missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham from an island resort in Palawan in 2001.

Padilla clarified that only civilian tipsters are eligible to receive the reward, contrary to the perception that the military will benefit from the bounty system.

“The bounty system is only for informants who could provide information to authorities for the capture (or neutralization) of high value targets,” Padilla said.

Abra Rep. Joseph Sto. Nino Bernos, however, called on the government to allow the soldiers who took part in the battle of Marawi to receive the bounty.

“It is only proper that our soldiers also become entitled to the bounties for these terrorists. After all, it was them who put their lives on the line to track and neutralize Hapilon and Maute,” Bernos said.

Bernos hailed the soldiers for a job well done and for their dedication to the mission to neutralize the leaders of the terror group.

“Their death greatly weakens the hold of the terrorist forces in the city. Now, the task at hand is one that should speed up efforts to make Marawi the great city it was,” he said.

Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas denied reports alleging that he criticized the manner of killing the two terrorist leaders.

Villegas slammed articles circulating in social media as “fake news,” saying he never made such statements.

“On the contrary, we laud the gallantry of our soldiers and their heroic efforts to free Marawi,” Villegas said.  – With Artemio Dumlao, Evelyn Macairan

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