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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fr. Chito Soganub: I am physically strong. Pray for me.

MANILA (Updated) -- Fr. Chito Soganub, the parish priest who was rescued by troops in a mosque in Marawi, appealed to the media Monday, September 18, to pray for his recovery and assured them that he is "physically strong and handsome."

"I’ll pray for you. God bless you. Pray for me also for my healing and recovery," he said when he was presented to the media at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Karingal, Quezon City.

Soganub, the vicar general of the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christian who was held hostage by the Maute terror group for 117 days, was accompanied Monday by a medical team, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief General Eduardo Año, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., and Lanao Del Sur Provincial Crisis Management Committee Zia Adiong.




He was rescued at 11:45 p.m. of September 16 after government troops attacked the Maute group who was holed up at Bato Mosque in Marawi City. He was taken by the terrorists since May 23.

Also rescued on Saturday in the vicinity of Barangay Sangcay, Dansalan, Marawi City, was a teacher of Dansalan College. The troops also seized several improvised explosives devices.

"As the firefight between our troops and the Maute rebels at the Bato mosque progressed, the terrorists were forced to withdraw to the nearby structures...While the terrorists were busy repelling the attack, the troops had the opportunity to snatch Fr. Chito," Lorenzana said.

He said Soganub and the other rescued hostage were immediately brought out of the conflict zone and underwent medical checkup.

But Año said the Maute group is still holding several hostages.

"According to our intelligence sources, 12 hostages were held at Bato Mosque," he said, adding that some civilians are also being held hostage in other buildings occupied by the terrorists in Marawi City.

He said the Maute group is still holding around 45 to 50 civilians.

Año said Soganub's rescue was a result of the troops "very deliberate effort" to regain Marawi City and save the civilians.

He said there were several attempts to rescue the hostages, but the terrorists have been fighting back and used the Bato mosque as their "battle position, machine gun nest, and storage of combat supplies."

"There were times to extricate him, pero doon kami nahirapan kung papano siya (Fr. Soganub) ilabas. Meron ding times na si Fr. Chito mismo ang nagsabi na 'Wag na. Hayaan n'yo na akong mamatay dito. I already accepted my fate.' So last Saturday, he was not aware that he will be extricated," said Año.

He said that based on statements of those who surrendered and were captured, Omar Maute is the one leading the terrorists. "His brothers, Abdullah, Madi and Oto, are already dead," he said.

"We have sources inside, hindi na lumalabas ang pangalan nila, except Omar (Only Omar's name was mentioned by our sources). There are two main groups, one is led by Hapilon, ito ‘yung mga galing pa ng Basilan, at itong kay Omar," he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that according to Soganub, the hostages were treated well.

"There were days na nakakain sila ng maayos. Hindi sila sinasaktan ng mga Maute members (They were fed well and not hurt by the Maute members)," said Lorenzana.

But there were also instances, especially during a firefight, when the hostages are ordered to carry firearms and pose like a member of the Maute group.

"Alam natin na ang ibang hostages sinusuotan nila na parang mga Maute members (We know that some hostages were told to pose like the Maute members), but we told them to drop their firearms and cross to the nearest military position, where they will be accepted unharmed," said Año, adding many have surrendered through that means.

As of September 18, 673 terrorists were neutralized, 149 troops were killed, 47 civilians have died in the ongoing conflict and 1,730 were rescued, 699 firearms were recovered, and seven buildings were cleared by the military.

"I am confident that the soldiers, airmen and sailors marines, policemen and coast guards will accomplish the mission sooner than I expected," Lorenzana said, adding the troops are clearing only about 10 hectares of Marawi City.

Lorenzana said that as instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the troops are operating "quietly" to avoid putting the lives of the other hostages in danger. (LMY/Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)
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