Marawi bishop in 'frustrating' wait for updates on hostages

MANILA, Philippines – Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña said he remains in a "very frustrating" wait as the military has not updated him on efforts to rescue his right-hand man, Father Teresito Soganub, and at least 12 companions.

Dela Peña said on Sunday evening, May 28, that the military has not coordinated with his office since the first and last time a general spoke to him on May 23. 

"It's a very frustrating long wait," Dela Peña also said in a phone interview with Rappler on Saturday, May 27.

"Frustrating sa amin na maghihintay ka ng wala. Naghihintay ka. Kung meron kang hinihintay, hindi frustrating 'yung alam mong darating. Pero sa kanila eh hindi mo alam eh," the bishop explained. (It is frustrating for us to wait for nothing. You wait. If you wait for something, it is not frustrating if you know it will come. But with them, you do not know.)

Dela Peña said Soganub and 12 to 15 of his companions were held hostage by terrorists on May 23. Among the hostages were parish secretary Wendelyn Mayormita and parish council president Maria Luisa Colina. 

'This is martial law'

The hostage-takers wanted Dela Peña to tell the military to stop pursuing the terrorists, and to implement a ceasefire.

He said he relayed this on May 23 to Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr, who called him with the help of Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz. He said that was the last time he was able to speak to a military man regarding the hostages. 

He said it is important for the military to get in touch with his office "because they are on top of the situation." 

"This is martial law. They have all the powers to do it. We gave them so much power," he said.

Dela Peña said he is now in Iligan City along with other evacuees from Marawi City. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said up to 55,000 people have fled their homes in Marawi City following clashes between government troops and the terrorist Maute Group. 

The Marawi clashes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23 to place the whole of Mindanao under martial law.  

Days later, the Catholic bishops of Mindanao said military rule in the southern Philippines "must be temporary" as they vowed to "condemn any abuse of martial law." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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