MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) again rejected offers or attempts of negotiations with the Islamic State-inspired Maute terror group to end the long-drawn conflict in Marawi City.
This after reports emerged that former Marawi City Mayor Omar Solitario Ali sent a text message to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza offering to negotiate for the release of hostages in exchange for the safe passage of Maute gunmen.
In a Palace briefing, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. reiterated that the government should not negotiate with terrorists.
“The Chief of Staff (Gen. Eduardo Año) conveys that we stand by the policy of no negotiations with whatever terrorist groups there are,” he said. “Any negotiation will just prolong the conflict.”
Instead, Padilla called for the former mayor’s arrest.
“Itong si Solitario ay dapat hindi tina-tratong seryoso dahil ito po’y supporter ng mga bandido sa Marawi. Dapat ituloy ang pag-aresto sa kanya dahil isa siya sa nag-instigate ng kaguluhan diyan,” he said.
(Solitario should not be taken seriously because he is a supporter of bandits in Marawi. He should be arrested because he is one of those who instigated the conflict.)
Padilla added that Solitario only wanted to “save his neck” in trying to facilitate a negotiation with the ISIS-inspired terror group. He appealed to the public to “give [the] Armed Forces the chance to resolve the conflict” in Marawi.
The AFP estimates that there are about “40 to 50” gunmen still holed up in a 20-hectare area in the city, while the number of captives is estimated at “20 to 30.”
The conflict has entered its fourth month, and the military said it may soon be resolved. Last month, state forces retook the Grand Mosque, where terrorists had holed up.
As of Sept. 7, hostilities in Marawi have resulted in the deaths of 653 gunmen, 45 civilians, and 145 government troops.
The conflict has displaced more than 400,000 from the once bustling urban center and nearby towns.