MANILA, Philippines – Eight members of the Maute terror group have surrendered to government forces, according to the military.
"There were 8 members holed up in Marawi who surrendered to forces," said Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, during a Palace news briefing on Wednesday, May 31.
Padilla received the information from Brigadier General Custodio Parcon of the Philippine Marines. Parcon said the terrorists surrendered on Sunday, May 28.
The 8 have been able to help military and police in ongoing clashes against the Maute Group, which continues to hold certain areas of the city under its control.
"These individuals have been talked to and debriefed and have provided very, very valuable intelligence," said Padilla.
This is the first time members of the terror group have surrendered since the clashes began on May 23.
Padilla confirmed reports from ground commanders in Marawi that around 90% of the city had been cleared of the Maute Group.
So far, 89 members of the group have been killed, said Padilla.
The AFP called on more terrorists to surrender.
"Our message is, while you have time, consider deeply to surrender, lay down your arms and let's just talk. We will treat you humanely," Padilla said in a chance interview after the press conference.
The military is tapping religious leaders and scholars in backchannel talks to convince Maute Group members to surrender or let go of their hostages, including Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub, the vicar general of the Marawi bishop.
"The Muslim leaders have to help in convincing the Muslims holding him not to kill him because he helps not only Christians, but Muslims also," said Padilla in a mix of English and Filipino.
"There are many religious leaders on the Muslim side who are interested that Father Chito come out of this alive because they have been working together on many good projects so if he is gone, who will be the connection of the Muslim leaders?" he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in Iligan City on May 26 that he had directed lawyer Abdullah Mamao, Presidential Adviser on overseas Filipino workers, to reach out to members of the terror group who are willing to "talk peace" with the government.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the administrator of martial law, has given government forces up to Friday, June 2, to end the Marawi siege. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.