Fr. Chito Soganub’s family: “God answered our prayers”

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 18 September) — “We have been praying for his freedom and the other captives since they were abducted. God answered out prayers,” the younger sister of  Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub said as they welcomed the news of his freedom from the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City late Saturday night.

Marilyn Soganub-Ginnivan, Fr. Chito’s younger sister, said the family is glad that the priest is now free and safe and undergoing debriefing by the military but hopes he will find time soon to call them.

Family members of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub offer prayers before an altar at their ancestral house in Norala, South Cotabato on Thursday (1 June 2017) for his safe release or rescue from the Maute Group in Marawi City. The priest, who has been serving the Prelature of Marawi for 22 years until his abduction, grew up in this rustic municipality. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

“We are still waiting for his call,” Marilyn told MindaNews at 10:50 am Monday.

She said they will be preparing for Fr. Chito’s homecoming in Norala, South Cotabato.

The military on Sunday kept mum about Fr. Chito’s freedom, saying only that they are “still validating” the reports.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza broke the news on Sunday that Fr. Chito was “rescued” by troops, along with another hostage, near the Bato Ali mosque at around 11:30 pm Saturday. The mosque and another structure used by the Maute Group as stronghold was taken over by government troops on August 24.

As of 11:30 a.m. Monday, Fr. Chito has not been presented to the public by the military to tell his story.

It is not clear if Fr. Chito, vicar general of the Prelature of St. Mary in Marawi, and another hostage had escaped, were freed by the terrorist gunmen or rescued by the troops.

In a statement on Sunday, the Prelature of Marawi said it welcomed the news that the priest “has been rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines together with one other undisclosed companion.”

The Duyog Marawi team, the prelature’s response to the Marawi crisis, “exploded with shouts of joy” as Fr. Nono Reteracion, C.S.s.R. read the confirmation from several military personnel. The team was in the middle of their monthly meeting.

Fr. Chito Soganub (2nd from left) bonding with friends. Photo from Fr. Chito’s Facebook page

“Fr. Chito has always been an inspiration to us all in Marawi. News of his release certainly pushes us more to work for peace in Marawi City,” said Diovelene Francisco, a Mindanao State University student who volunteers for the Duyog Marawi Communications Center for Peace and Advocacy.

Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña, who was scheduled to return from Rome on Sunday, has laid out a plan for the hostages’ healing and reintegration program once they would be released. “This includes a general medical check-up and hospital confinement for their body to recover. After which, a long period of rest and recovery together with trauma therapy will be provided to them,” the statement said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)