Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday nixed the offer of a Maute group leader to free a Catholic priest in exchange for the government's release of his parents and relatives currently facing rebellion cases over the Marawi City attacks.
"The government never negotiates with terrorists!" Aguirre said in a text message when asked for comment on a newspaper report that Abdullah Maute offered to swap Marawi priest Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob for his parents, Cayamora and Ominta "Farhana" Maute, and some arrested members of the clan.
Abdullah reportedly conveyed his offer to Muslim religious leaders who visited the conflict zone during the eight-hour ceasefire implemented by the military on Sunday in light of the Muslim feast of Eid'l Fitr or end of Ramadan.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has said it was not aware that such an offer had been made for the release of Suganob, who was abducted by Maute fighters during the May 23 attack in Marawi.
"Hindi pa po natin batid kung ano yung naging ugat niyan at kung saan nagsimula dahil hindi pa natin nakukuha yung pormal na pinanggalian," AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said in an interview on Unang Balita on Tuesday.
Cayamora and Farhana Maute are currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City after they were separately arrested earlier this month for the crime of rebellion.
Also under government custody are siblings Farida Pangompig Romato and Aljadid Pangompig Romato alias Hadid and Farida's boyfriend Abdulrahman Serad Dimakatuh who were arrested at the Iloilo City port on June 18.
According to government prosecutors, these individuals had connived with the ISIS-inspired Maute group who are "now actively engaged in an armed rebellion against the government."
Clashes between government troops and the Maute group that began on May 23 have caused the deaths of hundreds of people, most of them militants, and the displacement of thousands of residents.
The attacks had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law in the whole of Mindanao on the ground of rebellion, whose factual basis has been challenged before the Supreme Court. —ALG/KVD, GMA News