ICC Note: The conflict between radical armed Muslim rebel groups and the Philippine government took a turn for the worse earlier this week when hundreds of Islamic fighters attacked cities on the Southern island of Mindanao. Some reports say that as many as 200 residents have been taken hostage, including one Catholic priest and a pastor. Islamic rebel groups in the Southern Philippines are notorious for taking hostages and in the past have taken foreign missionaries to use for random demands. The Philippine government has sent reinforcements and is working on pushing the rebels out of populated areas.
9/10/2013 The Philippines (CIC) – A Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor are said to be among the “hostages” of the Moro National Liberation Front who are engaged in a standoff with government forces in Zamboanga City, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Tuesday.
According to GMA News (www.gmanetwork.com), the CBCP said Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of the Philippine National Police Regional Office 9, identified the priest as Fr. Michael Ufana of St. Joseph Parish.
“Ufana was reportedly with his parents who were celebrating their wedding anniversary yesterday when the rebels took them in Barangay Sta. Catalina,” the CBCP said on its news site, citing information from Huesca.
A separate report on dzBB radio Tuesday night said the MNLF is also holding his parents and sister hostage.
The CBCP quoted Zamboanga Archdiocese administrator Msgr. Crisologo Manongas as saying Ufana was trapped in the standoff.
“All the time they were there until eventually their house was forced open by the MNLF and the rebels used it as a place where they put their guns,” Manongas said.
Manongas said they have been praying for the safety of the hostages and an end to the violence.
“We are praying. That is all we can do for now because we have to leave the rest to the authorities. We are also helping in distribution of food to those stranded in the evacuation centers,” he said.
According to an ANS correspondent based in the area, “A pastor called a radio station this morning and secretly informed the station he is one of the hostages, but the communication was cut off. I could not write the story straight at the moment because of the ongoing crossfire.”
In eight evacuation centers, over 9,000 residents are seeking temporary shelter amid the continuing standoff between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters loyal to founding chairman Nur Misuari.