Palace on reported Maute-hostage swap: No negotiations with terrorists

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Father Chito Suganob, Cayamora Maute, and Ominta Romato Maute

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 27) — The government reiterated on Tuesday its policy of not negotiating with terrorists in exchange for Marawi hostages.

It was reported on Tuesday that a terror group leader was willing to release abducted Catholic priest Father Chito Suganob and other hostages in exchange for the detained parents and relatives of the leaders of the Maute group.

The quoted source of the report said they attended the emissaries' meeting with Abdullah Maute, one of the heads of the local terror group, on Sunday.

Related: Emissaries, Maute talk reaches deadlock

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is standing by its policy not to negotiate with terror groups.

He also said the talks between the religious leaders and leaders of the Maute group were not authorized by the government.

"Government's policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains. Hence the local religious leader led talks with the terrorists last Sunday was not sanctioned by the government, the military, and our political leaders. Any demands made inside, therefore, hold no basis," he said during the Palace briefing on Tuesday.

On Monday, Asec. Dickson Hermoso, who coordinates efforts to recover trapped civilians, said eight Muslim religious leaders, or imams, had been able to talk to Abdullah Maute.

Aside from the release of hostages, the possibility of terrorists laying down arms was also in the agenda. But due to differences in religious beliefs, negotiations fell through. Hermoso said he could not divulge the details of what was discussed due to the "precarious" situation.

Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong told CNN Philippines the emissaries were banking on their leverage as Muslim Maranao elders in allowing civilians to flee the war zone and find safety. He added the goal of the emissaries' dealings was not to find an end to the war but merely to get as many civilians to safety.

Abella said the terrorists have to pay for their crimes.

"The gravity of the terrorists and their supporters defense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously said that there would be no more talks with the Maute group because government forces had already lost many lives as a result of the conflict. The President even challenged the Mautes to fight to the last man because he said his orders to the military were to bring the heads of the Mautes.

The Marawi crisis has seen the death of 70 government troops, 27 civilians, and 290 terrorists. It has also displaced an estimated 200,000 people.

CNN Philippines correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.