MALACAÑANG on Tuesday maintained that the government would not pursue any peace negotiations with the Islamist fighters in the southern Philippines.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella made the statement after Abdullah Maute, one of the two brothers leading Islamic State-inspired Maute group reportedly offered to release a Catholic priest, in exchange for the freedom of his parents and relatives who are now under the government's custody.
Abella said the reconciliatory talks between special envoys and Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar, during the eight-hour ceasefire in Marawi City on June 25 was not state-sanctioned.
He thus said that "demands” from the Islamist gunmen would not be acknowledged by the government.
“Government policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains. Hence, the local religious leader led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one of [those] that was not sanctioned by the government, military and our political leaders,” Abella said.
“Any demands made inside therefore hold no basis,” he added.
In an exclusive report by local newspaper the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abdullah reportedly told emissaries who are mostly Muslim religious leaders that the terror group is willing to free Fr. Teresito Suganob, only if the authorities would free his parents and relatives.
Suganob, the vicar general of Marawi City, was among the civilians who were held captive by the extremist group.
On the other hand, Maute brothers' father Cayamora and mother Farhana were captured by the security troops. Other relatives of the two terror leaders were also apprehended.
The military continues its intensified offensives against Islamist militants who wreaked havoc in Marawi City on May 23.
The five-week insurgency in Marawi City has claimed the lives of 27 civilians, 290 terrorists, and 70 government troops, as of June 26.
Abella said the government is also considering "all possibilities" to end the rebellion, including the possible intervention of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the clashes between state forces and bandits in Marawi City.
"All possibilities are of course being considered," he said, following statement of MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq that that group is willing to intervene to put an end to the crisis in Marawi City.
Abella, however, stressed that the Maute terror group must face appropriate sanctions for the uprising they led in the south.
"Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of terrorists and their supporters’ offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions," he said. (SunStar Philippines)