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Marawi hostage Fr. Suganob free at last

IT is surely among the best news reports coming out of Marawi City – that Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar general of Marawi Prefecture, was finally free after 117 days of captivity as a hostage of the Maute-Islamic State group that attacked Marawi on May 23, 2017.

There was not much hope for the hostages when the Maute, reinforced with foreign Islamic State-inspired combatants, entered Marawi. For the Islamic State – also known as ISIS (for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) – had become known for beheading hostages it had captured in the Middle East as well as in North Africa. Father Suganob, acting rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, must have been deemed a prized captive.

In the months that followed, casualties mounted on all sides. Just as the Abu Sayyaf of Basilan recorded its foreign captives appealing to their governments and their families to pay the demanded ransom, the Maute-IS group filmed Fr. Suganob appealing to the government to stop the military operations.

The government, of course, paid no need to the Maute’s resort to the use of such filmed appeals from hostages.

Everyone appeared resigned to the idea that the hostages were beyond saving, as the fighting continued, with the government pouring in more troops and the Mautes and ISIS surprisingly able to continue fighting with so much ammunition.

On the day that Fr. Suganob was reported to have been rescued – Saturday, September 16 – the Armed Forces of the Philippines released the following statistics: 673 Maute-ISIS combatants, 149 troopers, and 47 civilians killed. The AFP reported that two more enemy strongholds, the Bato Mosque and the Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation, had fallen to advancing government forces.

It is still not known when the Maute-ISIS rebels can be said to have been rooted out of their enclaves in Marawi City. But the government forces’ advance is inexorable and the rebels are bound to fall. It cannot possibly be otherwise.

The statistics being compiled by the AFP will continue to rise for there is still no end in sight. But amid all the blood and the violence and the suffering, we are most fortunate to have this one great piece of good news – Father Suganob, who also served as chaplain at Mindanao State University and was active in the Inter-faith Council of Peace, is free at last.