Items filtered by date: Saturday, 16 September 2017

De Lima on Estrada’s bail: We may as well decriminalize plunder

Sen. Leila de Lima. (File photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Congress might as well do away with the crime of plunder and the antigraft law for being useless following the release from detention of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who was allowed to post bail on plunder and graft charges, according to Sen. Leila de Lima.
Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), also assailed the release of Estrada, saying President Rodrigo Duterte’s anticorruption campaign is a farce.
Estrada was accused of conspiring with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in funneling his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2004 to 2010 into alleged ghost projects in exchange for P183 million in kickbacks.
In a statement, De Lima said: “The exoneration of plunderers under this administration is almost complete.”
She cited the outcome of plunder cases of certain personalities that went in their favor under the Duterte administration.

She was referring to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and even the Marcoses, whose cases are reportedly under review in exchange for the return of their hidden wealth.
Plunder is supposed to be a nonbailable offense.
Voting 3-2, the Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan accepted Estrada’s argument in his motion that the prosecution had failed to prove that he was the “main plunderer,” or mastermind in the pork barrel scam.
Arroyo used the same argument in winning an acquittal from the Supreme Court in 2016 on charges she plundered funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
“ … (C)ongress might as well decriminalize the crime of plunder and repeal the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because they have become useless and worthless under (Mr.) Duterte and his virtual amnesty program for the country’s top plunderers,” De Lima said.
The senator is detained on drug charges at the same facility in Camp Crame, where Estrada and former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile used to be detained and where former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. is still being held.

As justice secretary of the Aquino administration, De Lima led the prosecution of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla in connection with the alleged misuse of their pork barrel funds and of Napoles.
She said Revilla and the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, Napoles, might also be released.
False promise
In a statement, Sison said Mr. Duterte’s promise of anticorruption drive was false.
“By undermining the corruption charges against the big shots, Mr. Duterte has been paying his political debts to the Arroyo, Marcos and Estrada dynasties for the Luzon bailiwick votes that added to his own Mindanao bailiwick vote,” he said.
Like De Lima, Sison also expected Napoles to be released.
“Napoles can be expected to get off the hook, too, because she contributed a huge amount to the campaign of Mr. Duterte,” he said.
The CPP founder said the Filipino people were “victims of one corrupt regime after another.”
De Lima also found “doubly alarming” the “trademark impunity” of the executive branch finding its way into the judiciary.
She said the release of Estrada, who got out after three years of detention as he awaited the outcome of his plunder trial, came after his bail was initially denied by the Sandiganbayan on the ground that the evidence against him was strong.
“ … (A) reconstituted Sandiganbayan division with Duterte appointees suddenly finds cause to set Estrada free not because they now find the evidence weak, but because the court thinks that Estrada is not a flight risk,” De Lima said.
“Is the judiciary now introducing new procedure and doctrines just to accommodate the whims of the President?” she said.
De Lima said if this was the new reason of the antigraft court, then she was qualified to be granted bail by the court since she had shown she was not a flight risk.
She noted that she had returned home from a trip abroad despite knowing she would
be arrested for the illegal drug trafficking case to be filed against her.
“When the time of my arrest came, I voluntarily surrendered to the arresting officers. If that is not being a flight risk, then I don’t know what is,” she said.
De Lima said the country was under an “absolute dictatorship” because Mr. Duterte was able to dictate on Congress and now the judiciary.
She expressed that fear the country was going back to a cowed judiciary similar to that during the martial law years.
With officials saying the President would declare martial law this week, she said there was no need for Mr. Duterte to do so.
“We are already under a dictatorship, with Congress and the judiciary under Duterte’s thumb. A martial law proclamation would just be a formality,” De Lima said. —Reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Delfin T. Mallari Jr.


CHR exec rebut Duterte: Gascon not a pedophile

CHR Chair Chito Gascon LYN RILLON

The head of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon, is “definitely not” a pedophile, and the term cannot be used, even as a metaphor, to describe his zeal in seeking independent investigations into recent cases of teenagers being killed by police, CHR officials said on Sunday.
CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana and spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia defended Gascon after President Rodrigo Duterte, infuriated with the CHR for investigating alleged extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs, described the agency’s chief on Saturday as a “pedophile” for his focus on the killings of teenagers Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and possibly Reynaldo de Guzman by Caloocan police last month.
“This Gascon, he has been all about teenagers. You are like a pedophile, you son of bitch. Why do you like teenagers so much? Are you? I’m now having doubts. Are you gay or a pedophile?” said Mr. Duterte in a speech in Davao City.
“I know that Chito Gascon is not a pedophile, definitely not,” Gana said in a radio interview.
The term “pedophile,” she stressed, “cannot be used as a metaphor,” apparently in expectation of the usual Malacañang defense of Mr. Duterte’s controversial remarks: that he often cracks jokes, speaks in metaphors and employs sarcasm.

De Guia, in a text message to Reuters, said Mr. Duterte’s remarks deviated public attention from a critical human rights issue in the Philippines.
No respect for others’ dignity
“These are remarks that do not show respect for the dignity of others. The public must understand that the death of children concerns us all as they are especially vulnerable and need state protection,” she said.
Mr. Duterte also accused Gascon of being a spokesperson for the political opposition and criticized his scrutiny of police operations against illegal drugs.
“Why can’t you move on to other issues that are besetting this country?” Mr. Duterte said, citing the suffering of the people displaced by the fighting between government forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.
Jose Manuel Diokno, national chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group, also defended Gascon against Mr. Duterte’s attack.

“President Duterte should remember that when he points his finger at someone, he’s actually pointing four fingers at himself. His remarks are absurd, ridiculous and totally uncalled for. [CHR Chair] Chito is a good man,” Diokno said.
Police have reported killing more than 3,800 people since Mr. Duterte took office 15 months ago, while thousands of others have been murdered in unexplained circumstances.
The deaths of the three teenagers have fueled rising opposition to the campaign, with the influential Catholic Church and human rights campaigners, including the CHR, among the most prominent critics.
House defunds CHR
Last week, Mr. Duterte’s majority allies in the House of Representatives hit back at the CHR, slashing its P678-million proposed budget for 2018 to just P1,000, an attempt to abolish the constitutional institution tasked with protecting human rights in the country.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition Liberal Party who has locked horns with Mr. Duterte numerous times, said the House move effectively abolished the CHR.
The Senate, however, has vowed to restore the CHR’s budget, with some members vowing to stand their ground even if it meant failure to pass the budget.
“They should look at our mandate, what we are supposed to do and what we are actually doing, and please understand it. And if sometimes they think we’re bearing down hard on [the] government, it’s part of our mandate to also watch what [the] government is doing,” Gana said.
“We have no agenda to bring down the government,” she added.
Actually, she said, the CHR appreciates quick action by the Philippine National Police leadership on wrongdoing in the police ranks, as what happened with the sacking of the entire 1,000-strong Caloocan police force after the killings of the three teenagers.
Gana praised Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), who sacked and ordered the retraining of the entire Caloocan police force after the furor over the killings of the teenagers, which was compounded by a raid—without search warrant—of the house of an old woman on a tip she was involved in the drug trade.
Security camera captured images of dozens of officers involved in a raid that ended with the robbery of the old woman’s belongings.
“We saw how quickly they moved on the Caloocan case, and I am pleased with . . . NCRPO chief Albayalde,” Gana said. —With reports from Nikko Dizon and the wires


Maute terror base overrun; priest rescued

Fr. Teresito Suganob makes an appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop military operations in Marawi. (Photo from a video circulating on Facebook)

MARAWI CITY — The vicar general of Marawi City, Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub, and another hostage were rescued from Islamic State-inspired terrorists during a battle with government forces on Saturday night, Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said on Sunday.
Soganub and Lordvin Acopio, a teacher at Dansalan College, were rescued at around 11 p.m. on Saturday, Dureza, quoting former Iligan City Mayor Franklin Quijano, said in a post on Facebook.
“It’s confirmed we got him already,” Dureza told the Inquirer by phone, though he did not have details of the rescue.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (Navforwem), said he had received confirmation of the rescue from his “ground operators” in Marawi.
Quoting the information he had received, Medina said Soganub and Acopio managed to escape from their captors during fighting in the vicinity of Bato Ali mosque in Marawi.

Enemy hub captured
Bato Ali mosque is the command center of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists who have been battling government forces for control of Marawi since late May.
The military said it captured the terrorists’ command center in a deadly operation that began on Saturday.
It said nothing about the rescue of Soganub, whom the terrorists seized with dozens of other civilians as they rampaged across Marawi on May 23. But military press officers said there was an “ongoing rescue operation in the main battle area.”
“We cannot give you details as of now lest we imperil the lives not only of our soldiers but more so that of the hostages,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. would not confirm the reported rescue of Soganub and Acopio.

Malacañang asked the public to pray for the safe rescue of the remaining hostages, although it declined to comment on the report about the rescue of Soganub and Acopio.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the military had advised the Palace not to comment on the developments in Marawi, including the reported rescue of the two hostages.
But relatives of Soganub in Iloilo City rejoiced at the news of his rescue and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ news service carried reports of it.
Medina said Soganub and Acopio had told troops who rescued them that they escaped while their captors were engaged in heavy fighting with government forces in the Bato Ali mosque area.
“And in the course of fleeing, they were identified by the military and they were brought to a safe place,” Medina said.
A source told the Inquirer that Soganub and Acopio were found in front of Building Zulu 17 in Sangcay village around 11:40 p.m. on Saturday.
They were recovered by troops from the 6th Special Forces Company and the 3rd Scout Rangers, the source said.
Government troops also captured the Jamaitul Islamia Marawi Foundation (JIMF) building during the operation.
“It was a fiercely fought five hours before government security forces subdued the terrorists who were strategically located in the buildings in the periphery of the mosque and JIMF,” Gen. Eduardo Año, AFP chief of staff, said in a statement sent to reporters on Sunday.
“This enormous [military] gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub,” Año said.
“As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight,” he said. “We are ready for that.”
Heaviest resistance
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the task force battling the terrorists, said the military had encountered some of heaviest resistance in recovering the mosque.
Its capture may be a sign that the prolonged fighting with the terrorists whose leaders had pledged allegiance to IS, may be nearing a conclusion, Brawner said.
“We believe we are close to the end. The area where the Maute terrorist group can move is shrinking. We noticed that their resistance is weakening,” he said.
“They are retreating while we are assaulting but in the process of doing so, we are encountering many improvised explosive devices so we cannot just advance. We have to be very careful,” he said. —With reports from Jerome Aning, Nestor P. Burgos, and Agence France-Presse


Anonymous no more: Woman hero of revolution vs US

The monument built for Nicolasa Dayrit in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province. —TONETTE T. OREJAS

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — In the 2015 biopic “Heneral Luna,” no scenes refer to the Kapampangan women who gathered at the Bacolor convent on April 24, 1899 to convince General Antonio Luna not to violently confront General Tomas Mascardo who partied in nearby Guagua town.
The tension arose when Mascardo defied Luna’s instruction to send troops to defend the Bagbag line in Bulacan in order to protect Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and the rest of central and northern Luzon from American invasion. Luna led the Philippine Revolutionary Army.
Tiburcio Hilario, then military governor of Pampanga, needed to end the discord so he sent “a bevy of Pampanga beauties” led by Praxedes Fajardo and Nicolasa Dayrit, both leaders of the local Red Cross, to pacify the two generals.

Luna kept his cool but the Bagbag line fell to the enemy nonetheless.
Book in Kapampangan

On Sept. 10 during Dayrit’s 143rd birth anniversary, she was reintroduced to a younger city audience with the launching of “Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio: Ing Bayaning Fernandino,” a children’s book published by the city government and integrated in the basic education curriculum.
Teacher Nancy Tolentino wrote the story in Kapampangan. She also illustrated the book. Fernandina Otchengco, chief of the Department of Education’s school governance and operations division, penned its English translation.
The book, according to Mayor Edwin Santiago, “tells in detail the life of a great woman, her untold stories, her sacrifices and contributions to free our country.”
Hilario’s granddaughter, the late diplomat Rafaelita Hilario-Soriano, first shed light on these incredible women, in her 1991 book, “A Shaft of Light,” and her 1995 book, “Women of the Philippine Revolution.”
Ending anonymity
The San Fernando government went a step further in 2004 to end the anonymity of Dayrit, a San Fernando lass who nursed wounded and sick soldiers and who helped the revolution as a member of the La Junta Patriotica de San Fernando.

Dayrit’s remains were transferred with full honors from the Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque City to a monument standing on San Fernando land owned by her son, the late architect Pablo Panlilio.
On her 132nd birth anniversary in 2006, the National Historical Institute unveiled a marker near the monument honoring her contributions to the fight for Philippine Independence. —Tonette Orejas



Drug war, Islamists 'rising' risks for Philippine economy — Moody's

This file photo taken on August 17, 2017, shows people living in a settlement as the skyline of Manila's financial district is seen in the background. President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war and armed Islamist rebellion pose "rising" risks to the Philippine economy, though it should continue to grow robustly in the short term, Moody's Investors Service said September 16, 2017. Noel Celis/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war and the armed Islamist rebellion pose "rising" risks to the Philippine economy, though it should continue to grow robustly in the short term, Moody's Investors Service said.
Duterte is battling militants in the southern city of Marawi, while rights groups have accused him of orchestrating a crime against humanity with police killing more than 3,800 drug suspects in 14 months.
"The re-emergence of conflict in the southern Philippines, as well as the Duterte administration's focus on the eradication of illegal drugs, represents a rising but unlikely risk of a deterioration in economic performance and institutional strength," the credit ratings agency said.
Sound economic and fiscal policies including a focus on infrastructure development balance out political and other risks, it said in a country report released on Friday that affirmed the Philippines' investment-grade credit rating and stable outlook.
But martial law, imposed by Duterte on the southern region of Mindanao to stop the Islamist threat, could be declared elsewhere in the country and upset this balance, it said.
"(A) worsening of the Islamist insurgency in Mindanao... could lead to an expansion of martial law, undermine both foreign and domestic business confidence, and disrupt economic activity in other parts of the country," it said.
Duterte has said the military campaign in Marawi, which has left more than 800 people dead in a region wracked by decades of Muslim armed rebellion, was in its final stages.
However, on Friday Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana warned Duterte may also declare nationwide martial law if threatened protests against his rule turned violent or disrupted the country.
Anti-Duterte protests are planned for September 21, the 45th anniversary of the imposition of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in a bloodless "People Power" revolution in 1986.
Moody's also cited "continued uncertainties" over Duterte's proposed comprehensive tax reform law that Congress had yet to pass.
"In the absence of a significant boost to government revenues from the passage of the (bill), the government will likely pare back its plan to aggressively increase its spending on infrastructure," it added.
The report affirmed Moody's short-term 6.5 percent GDP growth forecast for the Philippines this year and 6.8 percent in 2018.

LTFRB: No taxi fare surges

LTFRB board member and spokesperson Aileen Lizada said while the fare structure they are proposing is different from the current system for taxis, she said there is sudden surge in fares during times of high demands for rides. File

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no price surging in the proposal to adjust taxi fares, unlike transport network companies (TNCs) Uber and Grab, The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said yesterday.


LTFRB board member and spokesperson Aileen Lizada said while the fare structure they are proposing is different from the current system for taxis, she said there is sudden surge in fares during times of high demands for rides.

“There will be no price surging for the taxi denominations,” Lizada said in an audio message.

LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III said during a Senate hearing they have agreed to adjust the taxi fares to make it at par with the rates of Uber and Grab.

Under the existing fare structure, the flagdown rate for taxis is P40 covering the first 500 meters, with P3.50 for the succeeding 300 meters. An additional P3.50 is added for a waiting time of two minutes.

Lizada said in their proposal, the flagdown rate is still P40. However, instead of the added a certain amount for every 300 meters, the pricing will be on a per kilometer basis. There will be another amount for the waiting time.

“The fare will now be P40 plus the amount times number of kilometers and amount times the number of minutes,” said Lizada.

Lizada said amount being considered for every kilometer and running time will be reflected in a decision that the LTFRB is expected to release by the end of the month.

The meters of all taxi units will need to be calibrated first before the fare structure takes effect, she said.


CSC exec, 14 others slain in shootings

Lawyer Neil Agustin, CSC-Cagayan Valley director, was driving his Toyota Altis on his way home to Ilagan, Isabela when he was waylaid in Barangay 10, Tuguegarao, Cagayan on Friday. File

MANILA, Philippines —  An official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and 14 other persons were shot dead in separate incidents in Luzon and Leyte in the past two days. Five of the fatalities were drug suspects.


Lawyer Neil Agustin, CSC-Cagayan Valley director, was driving his Toyota Altis on his way home to Ilagan, Isabela when he was waylaid in Barangay 10, Tuguegarao, Cagayan on Friday. 

Agustin’s aide, Randolf Castañeda, was hit by shards of the broken windshield and taken to a hospital for treatment. 

A task force was created  to probe the killing.

Also on Friday, an alias Bunso engaged anti-drug operatives in a shootout in Barangay Sto. Tomas, Biñan, Laguna, Superintendent Reydante Ariza, city police chief, said.

Vladimir Gamboa and his unidentified companion were shot in Barangay Canlalay also in Biñan shortly after midnight yesterday.

Ariza said the fatalities were on the drug watchlist in their areas.

Juwel Petilla, councilman of Barangay Himatagon in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, and Jade Yap drew their  guns when they sensed they had sold shabu to policemen who posed as buyers at around 9:35 p.m. on Friday, Superintendent Harri Sucayre of the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit said.

Sucayre said Petilla was ranked second on the drug watchlist in the province while Yap was a known drug supplier in the area.

In Ilocos Norte, construction worker Washington King Felipe Jr., 28, was driving his motorcycle in Barangay Caribquib when he was shot. His wife and child suffered minor injuries.

Police said Felipe was not on the drug watchlist, but a suspect in stoning incidents targeting passenger buses in the province.

Jacinto Alagano, 41, community leader in Barangay Manano, Mallig, Isabela, was in a school feeding program when an unidentified man opened fire. Thrift bank officer Roger Benitez was wounded and remained confined in a hospital yesterday.

Jayson Tolsa was shot while buying cigarettes at a store in Barangay Sabang, Naic, Cavite. 

Motorcycle-riding men shot jeepney driver Rovel Tan, 45, in Barangay San Jose Sico, Batangas City; carpenter Ricky Plasabas, 38, in Sta. Elena, Sto. Tomas, Batangas; Danilo Dollante in Dallig, Antipolo, and Jerry Fuller in San Juan, Taytay, Rizal.

In Quezon, Rosalita Sagayno and Norberto Acsalan were shot in Barangay Capulan, Guinayanagna and Malabanban Sur, Candelaria, respectively.

Rafael Jaime was found dead with gunshot wounds near Prinza River in Barangay Salitran 1, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

Police have yet to determine the motives for the killings. – Emmanuel Tupas, Ed Amoroso, Raymund Catindig, Victor Martin, Kurt dela Peña, Miriam Desacada


Drug war: 1 dead, 16 arrested in Metro Manila

Computer technician Mark Angelo Aribe, 24, was watching children playing in a computer shop along Quirino street in Tondo, Manila when an unidentified assailant approached him from behind and shot him at around 11:45 p.m. Friday, Police Officer 3 Dennis Turla said. AP/Bullit Marquez, File
MANILA, Philippines — At least one person was killed and 16 others were arrested since Friday as the government continued its war against illegal drugs.

Computer technician Mark Angelo Aribe, 24, was watching children playing in a computer shop along Quirino street in Tondo, Manila when an unidentified assailant approached him from behind and shot him at around 11:45 p.m. Friday, Police Officer 3 Dennis Turla said.

A sister of Aribe, who died at the scene, told police he was released from a drug rehabilitation center in Pasig City last April and had been trying to fix his life.

Turla said they are still trying to determine the motive for the killing and the identity of the assailant.

In Quezon City, 13 persons were arrested in anti-drug operations since Friday.

Jomar dela Cruz; Jose Retulan, 18; Renen Alas, 38; Raymund Cruz, 26; and Rizalino Gaspi, 18, were caught in a sting in Barangay Kaligayahan at around 3:30 a.m. Friday.

Police seized four sachets of shabu, a digital weighing scale and assorted drug paraphernalia from the suspects.

Michael Cagadas, 32, and Rocky Sodonio, 22, were caught using shabu in Barangay Apolonio Samson at around 4 a.m. Friday by police officers on routine patrol.

Four sachets of shabu, drug paraphernalia and an improvised shotgun with ammunition were confiscated from them.

Rene Zapanta, 35, and Sherilyn Napay, 40, were arrested in a sting in Barangay Balong Bato at around 6:30 p.m. Friday. Two sachets of shabu were seized from them.

Ma. Cristina Sy, 38; Mark Isagani Soliman, 34, and a 16-year-old boy were arrested in a sting in Barangay Payatas A at around 1 a.m. yesterday.

Sy is in the barangay’s drug watchlist as an alleged pusher while Soliman and the boy were reportedly her customers. Three sachets of shabu and marked money were seized from the suspects.

Mark Soriano, 30, was arrested in another sting in Barangay Batasan Hills at around 4:05 a.m. yesterday. Two sachets of shabu and a .38 caliber revolver were seized from him.

Meanwhile, 34 minors were rounded up in Quezon City for violating a curfew ordinance on Friday.

“They were turned over to their barangay officials for processing before returning to their homes,” Quezon City Police District director Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar said.

In Pasig City, Kurt Simon Concepcion was nabbed in a sting in Barangay Canio-gan at around 11:10 p.m. Friday.

Eight sachets of shabu and P200 in marked money were confiscated from the suspect.

In the same barangay, police arrested Alfred Valencia in another drug sting at around 11:45 p.m. Friday. Seven sachets of shabu and P200 in marked money were found in his possession.

In Marikina City, Hakey Muldong was arrested in a drug bust in Barangay Sto. Niño at around 3:30 p.m. Friday. An undetermined quantity of shabu was found in his possession.


Marawi bishop ‘happy’ over rescue of abducted priest

Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña on Sunday expressed delight after learning about the rescue of rescue Catholic priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob. The STAR/John Unson, File

MANILA, Philippines — Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña on Sunday expressed delight after learning about the rescue of Catholic priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob.


Dela Peña praised the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its efforts to rescue Suganob and other hostages held by the ISIS-inspired terror group, Maute, who besieged Marawi City for four months now.

“I am happy receiving messages about Fr. Chito’s rescue no matter how hazy they are,” a report from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines quoted Dela Peña.

Suganob escaped on Saturday evening after government forces reclaimed the mosque where the priest was being held captive since May 23.

It was Dela Peña who reported that the Maute torched the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians in the city on the same day the diocese was supposed to be celebrating the feast of its patron saint.

He also said Suganob, a vicar general of the prelature of Marawi was taken hostage in an undisclosed location.

Dela Peña is reportedly on his way back to Manila from a congregation in Rome. He said his first agenda upon arrival is to visit Mindanao and meet Suganob. — Rosette Adel

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