MANILA, Philippines – A propaganda video released on Tuesday, May 30, showed kidnapped Marawi priest Father Teresito Soganub echoing his kidnappers' demand for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw government forces from Marawi City.
"Mr President, we are in the midst of this war. We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for. They simply are not asking for anything – just to withdraw your forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks, and to stop the cannons," Soganub said in the video.
It is unclear if Soganub made this statement voluntarily or under duress. It is also unclear when the video was taken, but Soganub mentioned in the video that his area has been "victim of heavy gunfire for 7 days."
Clashes between government troops and local terrorists erupted in Marawi City on May 23, and May 30 was the 8th day since these attacks began.
On May 23, Soganub was one of around a dozen people taken hostage by suspected members of the terrorist Maute Group.
Soganub is the vicar general or right-hand man of Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña.
Dela Peña said the hostage-takers wanted him to tell the military to stop pursuing the terrorists, and to implement a ceasefire, in exchange for the safety of Soganub and his companions. (READ: Marawi bishop in 'frustrating' wait for updates on hostages)
In the propaganda video, Soganub continued: "We are victims. Do not be happy, Mr President, that we are the collateral damage of war."
The priest also told Duterte: "Do not use violence, because your enemies, they are ready to die for their religion. They are ready to die that their laws will be followed."
"Mr President, you are from Mindanao. You know the conflict in Mindanao. You know the problem in Mindanao," Soganub said. "I hope, Mr President, you understand them. I am also saying these things, Mr President, because you know the history."
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.