THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday that they are verifying reports on parish priest and parishioners taken as hostage by the Maute Group in Marawi City.

"Kailangan nating i-validate iyang information na iyan na merong hostage etc. Sapagkat napakaraming unang balitang lumabas na may hinostage, may pinatay may pinugutan, etcetera," AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

Bishop Edwin Dela Pena, Prelature of Marawi Diocese, on Wednesday said that Father Chito Suganod and at least 10 parishioners from the Cathedral of St. Mary's in Marawi City were taken as hostage by the Maute group.

Dela Pena said the bandits asked him to urge the authorities to suspend military operations against them or else they will kill their hostages.

The alleged abduction was confirmed by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a statement.

"Fr. Chito Suganob and others were in the Cathedral of St. Mary's when members of the Maute fighting group forced their way into the Cathedral, taking with them Fr. Chito and others as hostages," Villegas said.

"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled," the archbishop added.

Arevalo said the unverified report causes fear to the public and it was being used by the local terrorist group for their own advantage.

"Ang kalaban natin dito ay terorista, they are working highly on propaganda. The more na napapabalita na may ginawa silang karumal-dumal, the more na sumisikat ang kanilang pangalan and the more sila nakakakuha ng attention sa foreign terrorist group," said Arevalo.

On Tuesday, a firefight ensued between government troops and the Maute as soldiers aim to neutralize Isnilon Hapilon, the group's top leader, who was allegedly sighted in the area along with at least 15 armed men.

After the clash, the Maute occupied several establishments such as Amai Pakpak Medical Center, the City Hall, and the city jail while it burned a church, the city jail, Ninoy Aquino School and Dansalan College.

The Maute Group had earlier claimed ties with the international terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Arevalo however said the government does identify Maute to any international terrorist group since it does not want to glorify it. (SunStar Philippines)