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AFP verifying reports of Maute surrender feelers

A police officer holds a poster of wanted militants known as "Maute " group at a checkpoint set up at the entrance to Iligan City on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in Mindanao. Iligan city is one of the safe havens for the tens of thousands of Marawi residents who have fled their city following the rampage by Muslim militants. AP/Bullit Marquez, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to verify reports that some members of the Maute group have expressed their intent to surrender.

Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the AFP, said that such information is subject to validation by forces on the ground.

"Yes, there were unofficial and raw information that came to the attention of Joint Task Force Marawi that indicated the desire of some armed elements of the Maute group to lay down their arms and surrender," Padilla said in a Malacañang briefing.

Padilla noted that Maute forces in Marawi City might have increased from 60 to 80 as some hostages may have been forced to join the ranks of the ISIS-inspired local terror group.

Those who surrendered from the Maute group will be treated humanely as government troops operate under international humanitarian laws, the military said.

"We know the rules of engagement, we know the rules of war and if there’s a white flag flying out there for an individual o isang tao man lang na nagnanais sumuko rerespetuhin po ang karapatan niya at siya po ay tatratuhin nang maayos," Padilla said.

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The military on Monday afternoon presented to the media Catholic priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob, who was rescued Saturday from his Maute captors.

Padilla, earlier, refused to comment on the rescue of the priest.

"I neither confirm nor deny that there were positive developments lately," he said.

On Sunday evening, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza confirmed in a Facebook post that Suganob and one other hostage were rescued by government troops near the Bato mosque in Marawi.

An estimated 40 to 60 people are believed to remain hostages of the Maute group, according to Padilla.

RELATED: Marawi bishop ‘happy’ over rescue of abducted priest

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