THE Armed Forces yesterday told remnants of the Maute Group who are occupying some areas in Marawi City to surrender or end up dead.
“We call on the remaining terrorists to surrender while there is an opportunity,” said AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, as the armed conflict entered its eighth day.
Padilla expressed confidence government forces will defeat the Maute men who numbered around 100 when the clashes started Tuesday last week.
“We will come out victorious. We stand by the people of Marawi whose interests and safety we are protecting. For the terrorists, not surrendering will mean their sure death,” Padilla said.
Padilla also said the military establishment is calling for the surrender of the terrorists “in the hope of ending this (conflict) soon and reducing any more loss of lives and property.”
As of yesterday, the conflict has already resulted in the death of 65 Maute members, 17 soldiers, three policemen, and 19 civilians. Sixty-nine soldier and three policemen have been wounded.
Padilla said the terrorists continue to put up resistance thus, precision air strikes continue.
As helicopters circled the lakeside city where smoke billowed out of some buildings, troops cleared rebel positions amid explosions and automatic gunfire, moving house by house and street by street.
Nearly 85,000 displaced people are staying in 38 shelter areas outside Marawi.
Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon, who is leading hundreds of Marines in clearing operations, said there were still sporadic firefights yesterday.
Marines are tasked to clear Barangay Mapandi of Maute members. Parcon could not say how many barangays are still affected by the violence but placed the strength of the Maute men in the barangay at 50 men the most.
Asked to describe the enemy resistance, Parcon said: “It’s not commensurate to the combat power that we are giving. They are on the run and we hit them. Then they’ll run again and we hit them again.”
“There are less than 50 (Maute) in our area. They are not that strong. They are not fighting us frontally,” said Parcon.
Parcon said soldiers are trying to accomplish their mission of flushing out the enemy “very carefully.”
He disclosed that eight Maute members surrendered to Marines last Sunday.
“When you realize that you are not capable of fighting anymore and it’s not worth it (to continue fighting), it’s either you are going to die or you surrender,” said Parcon.
240 `PRISONERS OF WAR’
A video of Maute captive Fr. Teresito “Chito” Sunganob spread through social media. In the video, Sunganob asked President Duterte to withdraw government troops from the city and to cease air strikes and bombardments.
Wearing a black shirt and trousers, the vicar general of the Marawi prelature said the militants had the right to practice their faith and enforce Islamic laws in the city.
He also said about 240 others, including female church workers and teachers, are being held as “prisoners of war.” The video was apparently shot in the conflict area which showed debris and ruins in the background and the sound of gunfire.
“We are the in midst of this war. We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for. They simply (are asking) to just withdraw your forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks and cannons,” said Sunganob.
“From our heart, please consider us. Your know it’s hard, Mr. President, (that) from time to time we hear bursts of gun fire from the ground of your enemy, heavy firearms from your side,” he said.
Padilla said the military was aware of the video.
“This is pure propaganda. The Maute group is using this to stop our clearing operations,” he said.
Padilla said he was confident the militants would not harm the priest because they wanted to use him to gain concessions.
Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña said he has seen the video and coordinated with the government with regards to the appeal.
He expressed hope the administration will put a premium on the safety of the hostages.
A politician involved in efforts to evacuate residents, Zia Alonto Adiong, said authorities had cleared 85 percent of the city but reclaiming the rest would be a challenge because they were dense urban areas with trapped civilians.
“There’s an intensifying military operation that’s going on,” Adiong told a media briefing.
‘LIVE ANOTHER DAY’
Though most people have left, thousands are stranded, worried they could be intercepted by militants if they tried to flee.
Martin Thalmann, deputy head of delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he tried, but failed to convince government and the Maute to halt the violence so it can deliver aid.
“It’s so intense, it’s not possible,” Thalmann told reporters, referring to the fighting.
“There’s still a lot of people in there and of course it’s a concern that they suffer under this shelling and we wonder if all the precautions are taken.”
The government believes the Maute carried out their assault before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to capture the attention of Islamic State and earn recognition as a regional affiliate.
At the House, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Oscar Albayalde told the committee on Metro Manila development that the police are monitoring relatives of the Maute Group, who are living in Metro Manila.
Albayalde clarified that while they are related to the terrorists by blood, they are not necessarily radical.
“Just because they are relatives of the Maute, they are already violent,” said Albayalde, adding that the police are in contact with the relatives of Maute Group in different Muslim communities.
Manila Rep. Manny Lopez urged Albayalde to closely monitor the Muslim area in Quiapo especially because of its proximity to Malacañang.
PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa ordered his men to locate a still undetermined number of policemen who have lost contact with their mother units due to the skirmishes.
In an interview in Marawi City after visiting police combatants, he said reports that reached him showed a number of local policemen were unaccounted for since the fighting erupted.
He said he has no information if the missing were captured or could be trapped inside buildings of establishments having Maute members in the vicinity.
He also ordered his men to recover an armored personnel carrier from the Special Action Force, which was rendered immobile after it was hit by a landmine.
Dela Rosa also said he could still not confirm if one of the three slain policemen was beheaded, as reported by President Duterte when he arrived from Russia last week.
He also said had he known the Maute was to attack last week, he would not have joined Duterte on his official trip to Moscow.