MILITARY authorities denied claims it is in talks with a former mayor to allow cornered terrorists who have attacked the city to escape in exchange for the safe release of hostages.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “conveys that we stand by the policy of no negotiations with whatever terrorist groups there are, particularly in this case,” its spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto F. Padilla Jr. said.

“We are close to ending this crisis,” the spokesperson said in Filipino. “And we will neutralize all remaining armed members of this Maute group inside Marawi. Any negotiation will just prolong the conflict and resurrect these enemies, which is the same case that has happened in previous incidents,” Mr. Padilla said, citing AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo M. Año.

He also said that the public should not take ex-Marawi City mayor Omar Solitario.

“Whatever this guy is saying is not true,” Mr. Padilla said, referring to the former official, a known supporter of the Maute group, some members of which remain holed up in city. “He just wants to save his neck. And he’s looking for ways to provide himself the ability to escape liabilities for the crimes that he has committed. So he’s trying to play it up.”

He also pointed out that Solitario must be held accountable for the lives of the civilians who have been killed in the area.

Of the seven Maute brothers who led and participated in the attack on the city, six have already been killed, Mr. Padilla said.

“The rest are believed to have been killed,” but has yet to recover the bodies and subject them to DNA testing. “But information on the ground, along with those revelations from hostages who have gone out of the area, and other information available to the troops point to this development.”

Meanwhile, the construction of temporary shelters in the 9-hectare Transitional Shelter Site provided by the Marawi City government, has already started.

“The team in charge has arrived in Marawi City yesterday (Thursday) to facilitate the necessary coordination for the start of the construction today (Friday),” Mr. Abella said, in behalf of Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima.

The Marawi siege started on May 23, prompting President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao and later extending it until December 31.

As of September 7, 653 enemies have been killed while government casualties have reached 145. Some 679 firearms from the terrorists have been recovered and an additional 14 buildings have been cleared. — Rosemarie A. Zamora