Priest’s kin hopes for hostages’ rescue but does not see stop to Marawi ops
ILOILO CITY — Relatives of a Catholic priest taken hostage by the Maute Group in Marawi City were both relieved and saddened upon seeing a video clip of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob appealing for a stop to the military operations against their captors.
“We are happy to see him alive because we have not received any information about him,” Rufino Larroza, barangay (village) chairman of Maite Grande in Lambunao town in Iloilo, told the Philippine Daily
Larroza is an uncle of Suganob, vicar general of Marawi City, who was abducted on May 23 after the Maute group members barged into the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians. Also abducted and held hostage were three church workers and 10 worshipers.
A video of Suganob circulated on social media on Tuesday, showing him appealing to President Duterte for help.
“We still want to live for another day, we want to live another month, we want to live three years more. Please consider us, Mr. President,” he said in the video taken in front of buildings destroyed or severely damaged by the week-long clashes between government troops and Maute group members.
The Catholic Bishops of the Conference of the Philippines who has appealed for the safe release of Suganob and other hostages has confirmed that the bearded man in the video is the priest.
“It’s him,” Larroza, a first cousin of Suganob’s deceased mother Teresita, said of the man in the video.
He said that as of Wednesday, they were not sure of the current condition of the priest because it was unclear when the video was taken.
“It could have been taken last week or early part of the clashes. We do not know how he is now,” Larroza told the INQUIRER.
He said they have been praying and hoping for his safety and release.
“We hope his fellow priests and the government help in his safe release,” Larroza said.
A soldier for 10 years, including three assigned in Marawi City, Larroza said he would understand if the President would not order a stop to the military operations as appealed by Suganob.
“This would be giving in to the Maute and our soldiers could be endangered,” he said.
But he said the government should establish communication with those holding the hostages to have them released.
Suganob’s parents migrated to Norala town in South Cotabato where the priest was born.
But he maintained close ties with relatives in Iloilo.
Suganob last visited Lambunao, the hometown of his mother Teresita, last November. He celebrated Mass at the burial of an uncle.
“We did not expect this to happen. We are praying the he will be released unharmed,” Larroza said.
Municipal councilor Arvin Losaria, a cousin of the priest, described Suganob as likable, jolly and having a good sense of humor.
“Every year, he went home to Lambunao and made it a point to attend family gatherings,” Losaria said.
“He is very passionate in his Christian ministry,” he said. SFM
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