Wanted: Dead or Demised
The Abu Sayyaf leaders who kidnapped the Burnhams are nearly all dead and reward money has played a large part in their demise. A counterterrorist police superintendent in the Philippines told me that the US reward program was not getting much attention because the amounts were announced in dollar denominations. The superintendent advised his counterpart to denominate it in pesos because in Sulu and Basilan, not everyone was familiar with the concept of an exchange rate. Now there are fifty pesos to the dollar, and once the revised figures were published in pesos the full enormity of what was on offer hit home with all the force of a D-11 bulldozer dropped from 20,000 feet. The Muslim rebels stopped trusting their sweethearts, childhood friends, their brothers and their sisters. They probably stopped trusting their mothers.
The amounts were so large in local terms that informants could effectively plan on starting new lives. Like the Penguins in Madagascar. But the sheer size of the monies created the doubt that they would actually be awarded. In the Philippines, nobody can conceive of a Filipino government agency actually giving away money like that. There had to be a catch. But since the rewards were offered by Americans maybe the offer was "dsinwayn" -- genuine -- in other words.
Here is a link to photos of Americans handing out the reward money in actual briefcases full of cash in Jolo, the capital of Sulu. The lids are open for all to see. In a final touch of refinement, a sticker with an American flag is affixed to briefcase so that nobody misses the point, even if you can't read. Kidnap an American and you die. (Now if only the Philippine government could send the same message to kidnappers of ordinary Filipinos ...) Of course the sticker can be peeled off because no Filipino will throw away a "dsinwayn" imported briefcase. Sometime later this week a man will be sold a perfectly new briefcase with faint markings where a decal has been peeled off. And the informants are masked to protect their identities.
The entire ceremony would be probably be considered bizarre and in probably in poor taste in America, not to mention Europe. But in the Philippines, where tough guys call themselves "Bronson", "Django", "Ben Hur" and "Kojak", it is culturally perfect, right down to the burly man in a baseball cap handing over the mazooma. By the way, the Tagalog translation for Wanted: Dead or Demised is Wanted: Patay o Bangkay.