Talks between Muslim leaders, terrorists 'not sanctioned by gov't'

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has distanced itself from talks between Muslim leaders and the Maute Group over a possible hostage swap, saying such efforts have no blessing of the Duterte administration.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news briefing on Tuesday, June 27, that as far as Malacañang is concerned, the demands made during those discussions in Marawi City have "no basis."

“The local religious leader-led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one of that was not sanctioned by government, the military and our political leaders. Any demands made inside, therefore, hold no basis,” said Abella said.

His statement comes after reports that Abdullah Maute, one of the Maute brothers who led the Marawi siege, has proposed to release Catholic priest Father Chito Soganub, in exchange for the freedom of his parents, Cayamora and Ominta “Farhana” Maute.

The Maute parents were arrested within days of each other in early June and had been charged of rebellion.

Asked for the government’s response to the proposal, Abella reiterated that the “government’s policy is not to negotiate with terrorists.”

“Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of theirs – of terrorists’ and their supporters’ offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions,” said Abella.

Another proposal supposedly raised by terrorists during the informal talks was that they would consider leaving Marawi City if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were to intervene.

Asked what the Palace thought of this proposal, Abella said, “All possibilities are, of course, being considered.”

Around a hundred Maute Group members and supporters are holding out in 4 villages in Marawi as clashes breached the one-month mark. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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