June 9, 2002, Philippine Star, $5-M US bounty for Sayyaf still up for grabs, by Katherine Adraneda,
With no more hostages who may be caught in the crossfire, the troops will launch an all-out search and destroy operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits, with the $5-million bounty offered by Washington still up for grabs.
"Without the hostages, the rules of the game have changed drastically," said National Security Adviser Roilo Golez. "Before, there were restrictions because lives maybe endangered."
"We can go all out against them, but still subject to the rules of engagement, within the bounds of the law," he stressed.
He appealed to the people to be vigilant against possible attempts by the Abu Sayyaf bandits to seize new hostages to be used as human shields against military attacks.
He also called on the people to immediately report to the authorities any suspicious movements of strangers in their localities.
"I ask the civilians to stand by the soldiers," Golez said, adding the military operations were still going on.
He said the $5 million offered by the US government stands since top Abu Sayyaf leaders are still on the loose.
Golez revealed that among the bodies recovered from Friday's scene of encounter between the Abu Sayyaf terrorists and the troops was that of a mid-level Abu Sayyaf leader.
The bounty, made possible through the US' Rewards for Justice Program being administered by the defense department, was offered for information leading to the capture of the five highest Abu Sayyaf leaders — Abdurajak Janjalani, Aldam Tilao alias Abu Sabaya, Isnilon Hapilon, Hamsiraji Sali and Abu Sulaiman.
The five led last year's raid on the posh Dos Palmas resort in Palawan where they rounded up 20 guests and staff members, including American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kansas and fellow American Guillermo Sobero of Corona, California.
The Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero on June 12 as an Independence Day "gift" to President Arroyo.
The $5 million was apart from the P5-million bounty placed by the Philippine government on the heads of the top Abu Sayyaf leaders.
Golez also noted that the US government and the Burnham family did not blame Philippine authorities for the tragic rescue operation.
"There is no reason to believe that (Martin) Burnham was killed by friendly fire. Anyway, the US government said it does not matter whose bullet killed Martin because the full responsibility is with the ASG (Abu Sayyaf group)," Golez said.
He said Gracia Burnham, who has been confined in an undisclosed hospital in Metro Manila, has been declared out of danger, but still traumatized by her horrifying experience.
He clarified that the wound in Gracia's leg was caused by a sharp object, not by a bullet, and that a big mass of flesh was taken out from her leg.
Gracia will be subjected to a debriefing after she has fully recuperated, Golez said.
Golez also revealed that the troops retrieved from the scene of encounter a "farewell letter" written by Martin to his children.
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon expressed sympathies for the family of Martin Burnham and Deborah Yap who were slain during the rescue operation in Siraway, Zamboanga del Norte, as well as to the families of soldiers "who paid the supreme sacrifice" to secure the freedom of the hostages.
"They will be well remembered by a people who value freedom with their lives, in sharp contrast to the band of Godless brigands who showed neither mercy nor compassion," Gordon said in a statement.
He called on the people to rally behind President Arroyo and the troops involved in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
"We must not stop until justice triumphs, and the terrorists are expunged from the face of the earth," he said.