MALACAÑANG is calling on the members of the Maute terror group, who were still holding out in Marawi City, to surrender to authorities.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government's appeal for the local militant groups purportedly connected to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to surrender will "lessen the damage on the ground."
"We call on the remaining terrorists to surrender, if there is an opportunity," Abella told a press conference. "Definitely, [the call for terrorists to surrender is meant] to lessen the damage on the ground so that civilians will be less affected."
Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, for his part, said the military is being more careful now in conducting operations in the strife-torn Marawi City as they were giving the Maute bandits a chance to voluntarily turn themselves in to the authorities.
"Hindi kami padaudaus na nagsasagawa ng operasyon. Binibigyan pa natin ng pagkakataon na sumuko at ibaba ang armas nitong mga naiiwan pang mga terorista sa loob. May pagkakataon pa kayo bago tayo magsagawa ng resumption ng paglilinis sa loob ng Marawi," he said.
"Kung kayo po ay nagmamalasakit sa inyong mga kakilala diyan, sumuko na lang po kayo ng maayos nang matrato kayo ng maayos para di na po tayo magdagdag pa ng bilang ng mga namatay," he added.
On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in strife-torn Mindanao after clashes between government troops and ISIS-linked Maute terror group erupted in Marawi City.
Duterte, in his full report submitted to Congress, lamented that the Maute had torched several government and private facilities and inflicted casualties on government forces.
He said the terror attack proved the rebels' capability to sow terror and cause death and damage to property, not only in Marawi City but also in other parts of Mindanao.
The President further said that the Maute group is attempting to establish an Islamic State and deprive him of his powers and prerogatives as the country's chief executive.
Abella reported that as of May 29, the death toll on Marawi siege rose to 104, including 19 civilians, 65 combatants, 17 soldiers, and three policemen.
Abella said the military would continue launching airstrikes to expedite the clearing process of terrorist groups in Marawi City.
"Decisioned airstrikes have been judiciously used to prevent collateral damage and employ the specific targets of resistance to protect our troops and to hasten clearing of the city of terrorist elements who continue to resist," he said.
The military has beefed up its operations against terror groups in Marawi, following the May 23 proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
The President has said the government has to dwell with "formidable" enemies of the state to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people.
'Dialogue with terrorists still possible'
Meanwhile, Abella said the President is still open to holding a dialogue with the terrorists to address the root cause of the problems in the conflict-torn Mindanao.
"He's very, very open to dialogue. So his [intent] regarding the matter should not be questioned," the presidential spokesperson said.
"He has opened the doors, right? I mean, as you can very well see, the mere fact that he states it, that means to say that he’s open to it. Vis-à-vis, he’s open to it and there should be some adequate response on that," he added.
Last Saturday, Duterte expressed openness to conduct a peace negotiation with the local militants. (With Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)