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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Duterte rejects Maute proposal to trade hostages for safe exit from Marawi

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday rejected a proposal from Omar Maute for the safe exit for their followers in Marawi City exchange for the freedom of the hostages.

The exact number of hostages remaining in the hands of the Maute Group and its allies remained unclear, but Duterte said they could be between 70 and 300.

At least 40 Maute gunmen and other extremists were estimated to have remained in the main battle area in Marawi City and continued to hold on to the hostages – including the Marawi City vicar general, Fr. Teresito Suganob.

Since the fighting started, 145 military tooprs and police officer had been killed, while the Mute gunmen had suffered more than 600 deaths, according to the military.

Asked about Omar’s reported proposal, Duterte replied: “No way. No way.”

He said the only way for the Maute gunmen to get out of Marawi alive was to surrender to the government.

“This has to end. This cannot go on,” he said. “If they surrender, we will try them, give them due process, provide them with a lawyer.”

Duterte assured the Maute gunmen that no violence would befall them if they surrendered.

“There will be no oppression or harassment or anything,” he said. “No violence will be inflicted upon them if they surrender. That I could guarantee to you.”

Duterte said he would not allow Maute gunmen to be manhandled or starved while in government custody.

“That’s not the way how we treat people even if they are criminals,” he said. “They are not POWs to me. They are simply criminals.”

Duterte arrived here and pinned medals on 74 more troopers, who got injured in the nearly four months of fighting in Marawi City.

The injured fighters who received Kampilan medals from the President were among nearly 1,000 troops who had been injured in the fighting in Marawi since May 23.

They were being treated at the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital (CESH) of the 4th Infantry Division.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, the spokesperson of the 4th ID, said two of the wounded personnel the President visited and awarded on Saturday were officers. He did not provide their ranks though.

Martinez said that, since the fighting started, 1,143 wounded troops had already been treated at the CESH, the main military hospital in Northern Mindanao region.

More than 400 others were also rushed there for various illnesses, including malaria. /atm

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