MANILA - The ongoing war against the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao Del Sur has claimed its first military life on Monday.
On the 10th day of operations, a soldier in the frontlines was declared dead in battle, but his remains has yet to be extricated as the fierce firefight continued to rage.
The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, except that he is part of the forces that have engaged with Maute fighters in their new position in Butig.
The terrorists previously occupied Butig's vital installations, including its unused town hall, madrasa, and national high school.
State forces retook the town center on Thursday, driving the Maute Group to the fringes of Butig.
President Duterte has offered an olive branch to Maute, saying he does "not want to wage war on his countrymen." But there is no indication that the terrorists, who earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), will lay down arms.
On the contrary, videos declassified and shared by the Army show the Maute Group training children in a location that has not been confirmed yet.
Children wearing ISIS headbands and shirts can be seen chanting, conducting drills and listening to speakers in the clips which were recovered from Maute fighters in the course of the military operations.
The faces of the adults were completely covered while the faces of the children were exposed.
Most Maute fighters were in black civilian clothes, others were wearing fatigues, while some were clad in the tiger-stripe uniforms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Outgoing Armed Forces chief of staff General Ricardo Visaya said he was not aware of any report that the Maute Group is willing to talk to the government.
During his farewell visit to the Army First Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur, Visaya said the military does not negotiate with terrorists and that offensives against the Maute Group will continue as planned.
Visaya also commended the leadership of 1st Division Commander Major General Gerardo Barrientos and 103rd Infantry Brigade Commander Coloner Roseller Murillo for recapturing Butig with minimal troop casualty.
He added there will be no let up against Maute unless otherwise instructed by the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte.
It is imprudent for the Armed Forces to stop fighting the group, he said, when the terrorists are still attacking soldiers and planting explosives where they may pass.