August 24, 2002, The Philippine Star, Sabaya is dead — AFP, Palace,
Malacañang and military officials insisted yesterday that Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya was killed in a military operation last June, contradicting a Catholic priest's claims that Sabaya had been recently sighted in several places in Western Mindanao.
Although Sabaya's body has yet to be found, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said: "But for practical purposes, we know he's dead."
[To say "But for practical purposes" is a less-than-conscious slip of the tongue that reveals some sort of category in addition to that of actual, real death, which would be death-equivalents the public need know nothing about (that's the "practical" part of it, speaking from his point of view) As an alternative, Bunye could have said "But for expressed purposes, we know he's dead," which could have a slew of both legitimate and illegitimate meanings.]Last Thursday, Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, parish priest of Lamitan town in the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Basilan, said he had received third-hand information that Sabaya was sighted a few times shortly after his reported death on June 21.
Nacorda earlier said the sightings — although unconfirmed — corroborated his previous allegations that some military officers had connived with the bandits and allowed them to escape a military dragnet in exchange for bribes.
[Nacorda's use of the term "third-hand" to describe his information is a disarmingly weighing of the possibilities---that is, if "intelligence gathering" is meant to carry some meaning of "real," or "truthful"---while the newspaper writer's description of the plural Sabaya "sightings" as being "unconfirmed" would be its exact opposite. Short of Lazarus, what sort of confirmation could be expected?]Military officials denied the accusations.
"Fr. Nacorda is free to present Abu Sabaya if he has Abu Sabaya in custody," Bunye said.
[This is a marvelous psychological projection here! The subtext says that Bunye's team exercises control over Sabaya's future. Otherwise, at face value, the remark makes absolutely no sense, even as hyperbole.]He said Mrs. Arroyo was shown by the US government a surveillance video taken by a US spy satellite of the sea clash in which the erstwhile highly visible Abu Sayyaf spokesman was reportedly killed.
"We believe this is convincing enough to show that Abu Sabaya was indeed killed in that encounter," Bunye said, adding that the presidential palace stands by the testimony of soldiers who participated in the operation.
When asked by reporters if they could see the surveillance video, Bunye said: "This is a property of the United States government and I believe that this has been already returned to the United States."
National Security Adviser Roilo Golez also cited the same surveillance video as proof of Sabaya's death, "Sabaya is dead. D-E-A-D, dead," he said, exasperated. "He (Nacorda) should stop embellishing, wittingly or unwittingly Sabaya’s image. It's saddening he told the media that Abu Sabaya is still alive when he has no evidence."
[Saddening? That's the sort of grammatical glitch that's evidence of diabolical lying, in my opinion. The flawed logic here is: officials are facing unchecked public skepticism that Sabaya really died in the clash, and although in possession of footage from a spy satellite which could remove doubts about the death, public viewing is denied--even for a select few in the media, who would have gone on to write glowing obituaries. The U.S. can't be blame for withholding access either, with the odd syntax behind "this has been already returned to the United States," since this wasn't on an 8-track tape and a borrowed boom box---it was material downloaded from a SPY SATELLITE. Later, this whole lost at sea shtick was reprised with bin Laden's evidential remains, since you can't argue with an ocean.]A very irritated Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, a former chief of the armed forces, also dismissed Nacorda’s claims.
"I have doubts about what Fr. Nacorda is saying, not that he is lying. It’s a sin to call a priest a liar and my soul might be burned in hell," he told reporters.
"Now if Abu Sabaya is alive, I’m sure he is itching to be interviewed by all of you and you will be itching to get that scoop – and the media companies would even pay money for an exclusive on that interview. So I don't think he is alive."
[The underlying logic here is: "if you are alive, you must grasp for profit"---so why didn't Gracia Burnham file suit against Dos Palmas for their reprehensibly inadequate security set-up and plans to protect their clientele from a known and anticipated threat? As the sole surviving American, it was her job to sue the pants off the rich Chinese-Filipino family who had bankrolled the resort. Was it because she was already onto her Christian book, Christian foundation, and Christian speaking tour, like the dozens of others who provided the Christian catharsis post 9/11? I mean, Gracia, the poor dear, had lost her breadwinner!]Reyes' successor, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Roy Cimatu – whose troops hunted down the Abu Sayyaf during his tenure as commander of military forces in the south– was not surprised by Nacorda's claims.
"From day one we anticipated rumors like this," he said. "For the record, Sabaya is dead and he will never live again."
Cimatu disclosed that the military had earlier received information that Sabaya's younger brother might surface to fool the public.
"The report we got said this brother would even use props to make him look like the dead bandit," Cimatu said, without elaborating.
[This needed no elaboration, since it already fell into the category of too-much-information; an over-sharing of process details designed to make the issuer look smart, prescient, or just prepared, but which makes Cimatu sound like a screenwriter for the hit CBS show "Survivor," filmed on an island nearby, whose smash first season had overlapped the Burnhams' time in the hinterlands of the Abu's jungle lairs.]On June 21, the military reported that Sabaya was killed in a sea clash near the town of Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte by Philippine Marines and crack troops of the Philippine Navy’s Special Warfare Group acting on intelligence supplied by the US military.
A spy satellite reportedly even enabled US President George W. Bush to monitor the operation.
However, Sabaya's body fell into the shark-infested waters and was never found, the military said, raising suspicions that Sabaya was still alive and the military let him go.
[I thought the poor folk from competing nations had overfished these waters, even resorting to the bad husbandry of catching fish by the use of underwater dynamite. Salt water and eventual decomposition gases should have brought some sort of remains to the surface, beyond the cell phone and sunglasses presented to the public as providing proof.. Seven bandits were on the boat, and it is only the mastermind who is shot, falls overboard, and goes missing as fish food.]Assurances from Mrs. Arroyo and the US military – which was then training Philippine forces in combating terrorism –failed to quell public skepticism on Sabaya's reported death.
Nacorda said bribes to some military officers enabled the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf to elude a year-long massive military campaign.
According to Nacorda's source, Sabaya was seen in Lamitan on June 22, a day after the clash in which he was reportedly killed.
He was again seen the following day in Tuburan town, also in Basilan. There, he even reportedly held a "duwaa" or a party with close relatives and Abu Sayyaf members. — With Marichu Villanueva, Roel Pareño