A PROPAGANDA video reportedly released by the Maute group on Tuesday, shows kidnapped priest Father Teresito Soganub echoing his kidnappers’ demand for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw government forces from Marawi City.
According to Rappler, Soganub is the vicar general or right-hand man of Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña and was kidnapped on May 23, along with a dozen other hostages.
“Mr President, we are in the midst of this war. We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for,” Soganub said in the video.
“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.”
It is unclear when the video was taken, but Soganub mentions in the video that his area has been “victim of heavy gunfire for seven days.”
Fighting broke out in the city between terrorist fighters and troops on May 23, making Tuesday the eighth day of clashes.
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.
The priest is seen in the video telling Duterte that himself and his fellow captives are the “collateral damage of war.”
“We are victims. Do not be happy, Mr President, that we are the collateral damage of war.”
He added, “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.”
Duterte imposed martial law last week on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people where Marawi city, the epicentre of clashes, is located, to quell the unrest and try to tackle radicalism.
On Monday, the Philippine military claimed it was close to retaking the southern city after deploying helicopters and making “surgical strikes” on enemy strongholds.
“Our ground commanders have assured that the end is almost there,” military spokesman Restituto Padilla told reporters. “We’re trying to isolate all these pockets of resistance.”
More than 100 people have been killed, most of them militants, according to the military, and most of the city’s residents have fled.
Additional reporting from Reuters