MANILA – (UPDATED 2:07 P.M) Catholic priest Fr. Teresito “Chito Soganub,” the most high-profile hostage taken by Maute Group terrorists when the Marawi Siege began May 23, is now in government hands, A Palace adviser said Sunday.
In his Facebook post, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said Soganub – Marawi Prelature vicar general – was found 11pm Saturday near Bato Mosque, the strategic facility re-taken at the weekend by government troops in the final push to liberate Marawi from the ISIS-inspired terrorists.
In his FB post, Dureza said: “Got this just now from Franklin M. Quijano: For info sir father Chito Soganub together with one other was rescued by troops near Bato mosque at ooa 162300hsept2017. This is the 2nd grand mosque in Marawi that has been taken over by our troops.”
The Armed Forces of the Phlippines, however, declined to confirm the safe recovery of Fr. Soganub and an unnamed civilian.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said operations are still ongoing and premature disclosure might jeopardize the lives of soldiers still at the frontlines in the final push to liberate from Maute the Islamic City, and the other hostages they are trying to rescue.
‘Answered prayers’ – Iligan bishop
Meanwhile, Iligan Bishop Elenito Galido cheered news of the rescue of Father Soganub and another hostage after over 100 days in captivity.
Galido said Soganub’s rescue is a divine homecoming gift – ‘answered prayers’ – for three ranking church leaders who are returning from Rome: Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo.
Bishop Galido praised the soldiers who saved Soganub and the other hostage, a teacher. “Good news talaga. Nagpasalamat ako sa mga sundalo na naka rescue kay Fr. Chito at isang teacher yata ng Dansalan narescue sila at kaming lahat dito ay natutuwa. Talagang answered prayers. Talagang palagi naming ipinagdarasal. Ngayon malaya na sila. Thanks be to God,” Bishop Galido said on Radio Veritas.
The Mindanao church leaders had gone to Rome to attend the inter-faith dialogue at the Vatican and update the Pope on developments in Mindanao, especially Marawi and the outlook for the country.
Galido told Radio Veritas the AFP has not yet gotten in touch with Mindanao church leaders on the rescue of the pair, as the military has declined to officially announce it. The rescue was announced in a FaceBook post by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
“Di pa namin siya nakita, bago lang ito. Hindi namin alam kung nasaan siya, kung nasa Marawi o dalhin sa Manila [We haven’t seen Fr. Soganub, this news is fresh. We don’t know if he still in Marawi, or will be brought to Manila],” said Bishop Galido.
Besides Father Chito, at least 20 workers of the St. Mary’s Cathedral were seized by the terrorists when they raided the church on May 23, 2017.
Some hostages were earlier reported to have escaped at the height of the military operations to re-take the city.
Iligan City has become the primary sanctuary of thousands of Marawi residents fleeing the terrorists’ rampage, and the Diocese of Iligan became the temporary residence of Bishop Dela Pena and some Marawi evacuees.
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