President Rodrigo Duterte will not negotiate with the terrorist Maute Group even in exchange for the release of the group’s hostages in Marawi City.
The President made the decision in connection with a renewed offer of former Marawi City Mayor Omar Solitario to help in negotiating the release of the hostages of the Maute Group even if the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAAP) already ruled out shielding Solitario from prosecution.
Solitario is on the President’s list of politicians involved in the illegal drug trade but still managed to initially secure protection from the OPAPP last August 20.
The concession was quickly revoked upon recommendation by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, also martial law administrator in Mindanao.
“They [members of the Maute Group]will be treated as criminals. If they surrender, they will be prosecuted. If they choose to fight, then the state has the right to kill them. Simply, they are rebelling,” Duterte said when asked if he remains open to negotiating with the Maute Group.
Earlier, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla declared Solitario as a terrorist and warned that protecting him will just prolong the Marawi conflict.
According to Padilla, the former mayor should be arrested for the deaths caused by the Maute Group.
“Solitario should not be taken seriously because he is a long-time supporter of the bandits in Marawi. In fact, he should be arrested for instigating the violence there,” he said last Friday.
“We stand by the policy of no negotiation with whatever terrorist groups there are. Solitario is just looking for ways to escape liabilities for the crimes that he has committed. How could he say that the Maute-IS group is not the problem? That would be an insult to the Armed Forces and our heroes. There are 145 lives who have been sacrificed, who have given their all,” Padilla added.
IS or ISIS refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The President assured the Maute terrorists of due process if they surrender to the government.
“We will give them due process, provide them with a lawyer. There will be no oppression, harassment… no violence will be inflicted upon them if they surrender,” Duterte said.
“‘That is my guarantee. We won’t make them [members of Maute Group]hungry. I will not allow it. That is not how we treat people,” he added.
Duterte declared martial law and allowed warrantless arrests in Mindanao last May 23 to suppress a rebellion in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, led by the Maute Group.
He eventually secured congressional approval in seeking extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao until the end of the year.