Catholic Priest Suganob is spending his 57th birthday in captivity, held by the Maute terrorist group in Marawi, Philippines. (Photo: still from a video released by the kidnappers)
Catholic priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob is spending his 57th birthday in captivity, held by the Maute terrorist group in Marawi, Philippines. (Photo: a still taken from a ‘propaganda’ video released by his kidnappers)

The fate of the kidnapped Filipino priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob – 57 today – has “become uncertain”, as the battle for the southern city of Marawi continues, according to the Catholic news agency UCAN.

In June, World Watch Monitor reported that Father Suganob – who was abducted by the Maute terrorist group at the beginning of its ongoing assault on the city on 23 May – was believed to be “still alive” and that his release had reportedly been offered in exchange for the parents of the Maute group’s leader.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday (31 July) “that the terrorists are using the hostages as shields”, and that there are still some 30 hostages, according to UCAN.

Friends and family members of the Catholic priest offered prayers for his safety in his home town of Norala, South Cotabato province, as they have been doing since his abduction. His sister Marilyn told UCAN: “I believe that … he is ready [to sacrifice his life] for a mission to help the other hostages become strong and to have faith in God.”

At least 45 civilians have been killed in the fighting so far, as well as 114 members of the security forces and 502 terrorists, according to Rappler, a local news source.

Re-integration programme for former terrorists

Meanwhile, at least 84 former members of the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf have finished a psychosocial programme to help them to integrate back into society.

Most of the returnees are still in their teens or early twenties and were forcibly recruited, UCAN reports. The programme, the result of a summit of Muslim leaders in Mindanao in May, was put on for those not currently facing charges, according to UCAN. They were given training in areas such as farming.

Last year Abu Sayyaf, which is based around the islands of Jolo and Basilan in south-western Philippines, swore allegiance to Islamic State. The group has become notorious for beheading those it kidnaps.

Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told UCAN that “he hopes the ‘reformation’ of the former terrorists will encourage other members of Abu Sayyaf to lay down their arms and lead a new life”.