A Filipino Catholic priest, who was abducted by gunmen claiming to be Islamic militants, appealed to the Philippine government for help in a video posted on social media on May 30. The video showed Father Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw security forces from the southern city of Marawi. "Mr. President, we are in the midst of this war. We are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for," said the priest in the video. "They are asking for [you to] withdraw your forces from Lanao del Sur and Marawi," said Father Suganob. Claiming to speak for 240 "prisoners of war," the priest addressed Duterte saying "If you want me to kneel before you just for you to find favor for our families who are crying out ... we will do that." He said there are two female workers from St. Mary Catholic Cathedral and seven teachers of Dansalan College, a Protestant school, among the hostages. A band of gunmen who claimed to have links with the so-called Islamic State tried to take over the city of Marawi in the province of Lanao del Sur on May 23. For a week already, clashes between security forces and the militants have resulted in the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents. Withdrawing gunmen took Father Suganob, several church workers and churchgoers hostage during the first day of the conflict. The priest said his abductors are asking the government "to stop the air strikes … and to stop the cannons." It cannot be determined whether the priest, who appeared to be standing in the middle of a bombarded area, was making the statement voluntarily. The priest urged Duterte not to use violence, "because your enemies, they are ready to die for their religion. They are ready to die that their laws will be followed." Duterte has declared martial law across Mindanao following the terror attack in Marawi. Bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi earlier said the gunmen have threatened to kill the hostages if the military offensive continues. The prelate said he received a call from one of the gunmen demanding a "unilateral ceasefire." "They want a ceasefire and for the military to give them access out of Marawi. Otherwise, they will kill the hostages," said Bishop Dela Pena said.
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He said there will be "no negotiations" with the terrorists and he admitted that hostages might be used as "human shields." The bishop told ucanews.com that he had seen the video but refused to release any statement.