Dureza: Gov't will not negotiate with Maute group

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Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Jesus Dureza

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — The government will not negotiate with terrorists that attacked and continue to fight government forces in Marawi, Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Thursday.

"They even harm their own people," he told CNN Philippines' The Source.  "They even kill and harm Muslims. So hindi na nga religious 'yun. Hindi na nga Islamic 'yun [It's not even religious or Islamic anymore]."

Dureza said that the atrocities committed by the Maute group – which attacked Marawi City on May 23 as government forces were attempting to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon – mean talks are out of the question.

The Marawi crisis led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law over the whole of Mindanao and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, allowing for arrests without warrants.

The fighting has so far killed 44 civilians, 71 government troops, and 303 terrorists. It has also displaced some 246,000 Marawi residents.

The MILF connection

Dureza's statement comes after a group of "ulamas," who are revered teachers of Islamic schools called "madrasahs," told reporters on June 28 that the leader of the Maute group is willing to talk to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end the conflict.

The ulamas met Abdullah Maute during the government's humanitarian pause three days earlier for the celebration of Eid'l Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan.

Maute demanded the release of his parents, Cayamora and Farhana, in exchange for abducted Catholic priest Fr. Chito Suganob and other hostages.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on June 27 that the government is standing by its policy not to negotiate with terror groups.  He said that talks between the ulamas and the Maute group were not authorized by the government.

Some members of the Maute group were once affiliated with the MILF. The Maute family is also related by marriage to one of the prominent families of the MILF, the Mimbantas clan, according to experts studying Muslim rebel organizations and terror groups in Southeast Asia.

The MILF and the government are working together to end the Marawi crisis.  The armed group helps set up peace corridors to facilitate the rescue of trapped civilians.

President not afraid

Duterte is scheduled to go to Marawi on June 30, anniversary of his first year in office.  Dureza said that for the president, safety is not a factor in the planned visit.

"Yung [The] President will do what is necessary," he said. "Let others take care of his safety. He wants to be in the place where there is action."

The President was supposed to visit Marawi in the early days of the crisis, but his trip was cancelled because of bad weather.

Dureza said the President is concerned that his visit may detract from the operations in Marawi.

"Alam ko, kung pumunta yung Pangulo dun that security naka-cluster around him to protect him," he said. "Eh sabi naman niya, 'Wala nang tao dun to deal with the bad boys there.'  So he has his way of dealing with this."

[Translation: I know, if the President goes there that security will cluster around him to protect him. He said, "There won't be troops to deal with the bad boys there." So he has his way of dealing with this.]