Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Catholic priest and a pastor are among the ‘hostages’ in a standoff with government forces in Southern Philippines city

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ZAMBOANGA CITY, SOUTHERN PHILLIPINES (ANS) -- 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 (, 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.

Several areas in Zamboanga City have become virtual ghost towns on Tuesday, September 10, as government troops continue to choke MNLF positions on the second day of the siege that left four people dead and at least a dozen wounded.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, there were still about 170 residents being held hostage by the MNLF. The rebel group released five hostages, one adult and four children, earlier in the day at Barangay Talon-Talon following negotiations initiated by the police.

The Philippine Information Agency Western Mindanao pegged the number of evacuees as of Tuesday noon at 9,546, but authorities expect the number to swell.

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