8 of 17 Marawi hostage survivors reunited with families

DAVAO  CITY (MindaNews / 13 October) —  Of the 17 hostages of the Maute Group who were rescued by government forces early morning of October 4 in Marawi City, only eight — all of them female — have been reunited with their families.

“All women already reunited with their families,” Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Task Force Ranao said Thursday, in reply to MindaNews’ query about the hostage survivors. “The men are still undergoing processing with CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police),” he said.

As of Friday night, the male hostages were still in military / police custody.

The war zone on Monday, 09 October 2017. The military said on Monday that there are still around 60 non-combatants in the main battle area: 31 hostages in the main battle area, along with 31 or 33 dependents of the Maute Group. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

At  the press briefing on Monday (October 9),  Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command said the survivors would be turned over to their families by  “Tuesday or Wednesday” (Oct. 10 or11).

He said arrangements have been made, including travel details and who will fetch or receive them.

MindaNews checked with Galvez on Tuesday night if the survivors had been released from military/police custody. He said “necessary arrangements with all concerned” have been made for the turnover on Wednesday. “For the nine males, CIDG is still processing,” he said in a text message.

The eight female survivors were finally reunited with their families on Wednesday, a full week since they got out of the war zone. There was no public turnover “as they (hostage survivors) requested,” Galvez said.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Western Mindanao Command chief.  MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Galvez had earlier said there is a need for debriefing of the survivors to help the hostages still in the hands of the Maute Group.

The military has not released the names of the 17 hostage survivors but of the eight women, five are teachers from the Dansalan College and one is a professor at the fMindanao State University.

MindaNews asked during the Monday press briefing in Marawi if the hostages were being treated as suspects or as persons of interest.  There was no reply to that query.

But Brawner showed a flowchart of the “process” that survivors have to go through once they are out of the war zone: medical and physical examination to determine the person’s condition and if he or she would require further medical attention; determination of their involvement in terrorism which is to be done by the CIDG; and if cleared by the CIDG, they are turned over to the Marawi City government and the Provincial Crisis Management Committee.

He said most of the survivors were still with the CIDG.  Three days later, Brawner said the same for the male survivors.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Task Force Ranao discusses during a press briefing on October 7, 2017 the process that to be undertaken before the hostage survivors are turned over tot heir families. MindaNwes photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

In the press briefing on October 7, Brawner said they understand that the relatives of the survivors are worried “but we want to assure their family and friends na yung mga na-rescue po natin na hostages ay treated well by the troops and the  police.”

He added that the hostages are still “going through a process,” including medical attention and “aside from that, we have to determine their involvement also in this crisis lalo na po yung mga lalaki (especially the men). Some of them were forced to handle weapons especially at night.”

Brawner, however, said he cannot say when the survivors would be turned over to their families. “We cannot give you a specific number of days. It depends really on the situation”

Asked on October 9 if  there was an instance where a former hostage was not cleared by the CIDG, Galvez replied, “lahat ng (former) hostages cleared.”

A total of 23 hostages have been reported rescued since September 16, including Father Teresito “CHito” Soganub, the Vicar General ot the Prelature of  Marawi and Catholic chaplain of the Mindanao State University, and a male teacher of  Dansalan College on September 16; four hostages on September 21; and the 17 on October 4.

Fr. Chito’s family in Norala, South Cotabato found out about his escape and rescue on September 16 only through media reports.  The military kept mum on September 16 but the Prelature of Marawi, citing sources from the military, issued a press statement that same day welcoming the news of Fr. Chito’s freedom. The military broke its silence only when they presented the priest briefly in a press conference afternoon on September 17.

Fr. Chito is undergoing trauma healing but remains in military custody nearly a month since he got out of the  war zone .

Galvez said on Monday that there are still around 60 non-combatants in the main battle area: 31 hostages — 12 children, 16 women and three men — and “31 or 33” dependents of the Maute Group. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)