Government forces search for terrorist gunmen as the conflict in the southern city of Marawi. (contributed photo)
Philippine Catholic bishops are expected to discuss the ongoing conflict in the southern region of Mindanao during their bi-annual plenary assembly in Manila starting July 8.
Father Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the Catholic bishops' conference, said Bishop Edwin Dela Pena of Marawi will lead the discussion.
On May 23, terrorist gunmen allied with the so-called Islamic State attacked Marawi, burned a Catholic cathedral and a Protestant school, and took hostage a priest and several church workers.
The conflict has dragged on for 45 days as terrorist gunmen continue to occupy parts of four villages in the city.
At least 300,000 people, mostly Muslims, have fled their homes.
According to the government, the fighting has so far resulted in the death of 351 terrorists, 85 soldiers and policemen, and 39 civilians.
"We've heard so many things coming from the government [and] media, this time we want to hear it from the bishops themselves," said Father Mejia.
He said Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan, a neighboring diocese of Marawi where displaced families sought shelter, would discuss the "refugee situation in his area."
Father Mejia said that while the rehabilitation of Marawi may be discussed, the main goal of the discussion is "to know the real situation."
"After that, it depends on the movement of the spirit if [the bishops] will come up with a statement or a specific program," said the priest.
He said, however, that there is "no special topic" on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law across the region of Mindanao.
Early this week, the Supreme Court supported the legality of the president's declaration.
"The Mindanao bishops already issued a statement," said Father Mejia, adding that the martial law declaration is "not for the entire Philippines."
Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines have expressed support for martial law, saying that they have no "solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration."
The prelates, however, said they are "certainly agreed that martial law must be temporary."