MARAWI CITY -- There is still no updated information on the whereabouts or condition of Father Chito Suganob, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Monday, July 31.
Suganob was taken prisoner after extremists attacked and burned down a convent of the Catholic Church in Marawi City at the beginning of the fighting on May 23.
“Wala pa’ng proof of life, wala pang information na maibibigay ang ating mga forces on the ground,” Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command, said.
Petinglay said that although the Philippine Marines have already retaken the Mapandi bridge and have moved forward, the troops’ advance has been hampered by the presence of improvised explosive devices and booby traps.
“Ito ay para magkaroon ng casualties ang tropa natin, yun ang intention ng mga terorista. Ito rin ang rason kung bakit bumabagal ang movement ng ating mga soldiers,” Petinglay said.
The retaking of Mapandi bridge however is very important in their operation.
“Very, very important sa atin ‘yun, very significant kasi ang bridge na ‘yun sa movement natin at napapansin ng ating mga forces ngayon hindi na ganun kalakas ang pakikipagpalitan ng putok ng mga terorista dun sa ating mga kasundaluhan. However, they (terrorists) are employing improvised explosive device, ito ‘yung mas dumami among the access of advance of our forces,” she added.
As of evening of July 30, the death toll is pegged at 114 dead on the side of the government, 45 civilians killed by the extremists as reported by the troops, the media and the people on the ground.
“Hindi tayo nagbibigay ng exact figure of our wounded troops pero we already have 356 soldiers na nagging wounded, naging okay na, at bumalik na sa main battle area, lumalaban ulit,” Petinglay said.
In the 70th day of battle, there are 30 non-battle soldier casualties who are now being treated because of diarrhea, dog bites, and malaria.
The AFP estimates that around 200 civilians are still trapped inside the war zone and the extremists are still holding some 50 to 80 civilians as hostages.
Petinglay said there has been no incident of suicide bombing inside the main battle area but they are not discounting the possibility that extremists will resort to suicide bombing as their situation becomes even more desperate.