Philippine govt shoots down Marawi militant leader's offer to swop captive Christian pastor for his parents

Philippine soldiers ride on a military vehicle while government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, in Marawi, Philippines June 26, 2017.
Philippine soldiers ride on a military vehicle while government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, in Marawi, Philippines June 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Philippine officials shot down on Tuesday (June 27) an offer by Muslim militants still holed up in Marawi to swop a priest they have taken hostage for the parents of two brothers who led the attacks on the city, and suggestions to let a secessionist group holding peace talks with the government to intervene.

"The government policy not to negotiate with terrorists remain," Mr Ernesto Abella, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, said at a news briefing.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Tuesday (June 27) that Abdullah Maute, who led the group that seized large parts Marawi on May 23, offered to release Father Teresito Suganob, a vicar-general of the Catholic church, in exchange for his parents, Cayamora and Ominta "Farhana" Maute, who had been arrested for funding the attack.

The government also rejected an offer by the militants for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to negotiate their withdrawal from Marawi.

"Let us continue to remind the public that the terrorists' and their supporters' offence is immense, and they must all be held accountable for all their actions," said Mr Abella.

This comes following reports that Isnilon Hapilon, who with the Mautes and a Malaysian lecturer plotted to occupy Marawi and declare it a "province" of the ultra-radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had fled the city.