Local officials oppose 'unacceptable' safe passage for Mautes

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra joined the military's opposition to a proposal to negotiate with the Maute Group to release their hostages in exchange for safe passage out of the combat zone. 

His political nemesis, defeated mayoral candidate Omar Ali Solitario, offered to broker the arrangement with the local terrorist group after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed openness to it last week. Solitario argued it's the best way to end the war that has dragged on for over 3 months.

"Tayo ay hindi sang-ayon sa ganoong proposal. Marami na pong nasawi na ating mga kababayan; civilians as well as government troops. Malaki ang pinsalang nangyari sa ating city. Being the city mayor, hindi po tayo sang-ayon sa ganoong idea," Gandamra told reporters on Thursday, September 7. 

(We are not in favor of the proposal. Many of our people have died; civilians as well as government troops. The city has suffered massive destruction. Being the city mayor, I am opposing this idea.)

The position was echoed by the Provincial Crisis Management Committee. It is "absurd and uncceptable," said spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong, reading a statement.

"I agree that the hostages should not be harmed and be released immediately. But if in return the government will allow the remaining terrorist be free and acquitted, this we cannot allow. We cannot just sit here and say nothing," Adiong said. 

Solitario reached out to Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, who forwarded the proposal to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. 

Lorenzana consulted Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año who rejected the proposal and argued against trusting Solitario. 

The government asked Solitario, who has ties with the Maute family, to mediate with the Maute Group last year when the local terrorist group attacked Butig town in Lanao, Del Sur.

He was ordered arrested for the crime of rebellion, accused of aiding the Maute Group, when martial law was declared in May.  – Rappler.com