Gov’t rules out deal with Maute Group

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana surveys the firearms captured from the Maute Group which should have been presented to President Rodrigo Duterte had he arrived in Campo Ranao, Marawi City on 8 June 2017. The President’s trip was cancelled due to “foul weather,” Lorenzana said. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 August) — The government has rejected for the second time an offer to negotiate for the remaining Maute gunmen to leave Marawi City unharmed in exchange for the safe release of some 30 hostages.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the offer to negotiate came from former Marawi Mayor Omar Solitario and was relayed to him by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza this week.

Lorenzana said this is the second time that an offer to negotiate with the militants who laid siege on Marawi starting on May 23.

Unlike the first attempt, he said he flatly rejected the offer.

“It is too late. He should have done the negotiations during the first week of the Marawi fighting where we still have few casualties,” he said.

He added it would be a disgrace to the 145 soldiers who died fighting the terrorists.

The official said military officers vehemently opposed any talks with the Maute gunmen now that they have contained them in a small pocket in Marawi.

“We have them cornered already. Why the offer?” Lorenzana told reporters here.

Apparently, Solitario’s offer was triggered by a speech by President Rodrigo Duterte in Taguig City where he said he was sending somebody to negotiate for the release of the hostages held by the Maute group.

Lorenzana said Solitario and his group are asking for a safe conduct pass to reach the Islamic State-inspired militants.

He showed reporters Solitario’s supposed text message forwarded by Dureza.

It reads: “Boss, Omar here. Just secure authority and free movement for us and, with God’s help, we can fix the Mrwi debacle. Boss, I suggest we end the fighting, so that a more integrated counter extremist scheme can be launched.”

Last August 22, Lorenzana, acting on Dureza’s recommendation, cleared Solitario and his sons who were on the wanted list of persons suspected of supporting the Maute group, under arrest order numbers 1 and 2 issued on May 29 and June 5.

Facing vehement opposition from military officers, Lorenzana revoked the order a few days later. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)