ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Two Catholic priests were unharmed in an ambush attempt by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants who clashed with soldiers in an uphill village of Sumisip, Basilan Sunday.
Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the priests were on their way to Tumahubong in Sumisip town, when their advance escorts, who are members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit, were ambushed in Barangay Parang Basak at around 10:35 a.m.
“The two priests were safe. They were immediately brought to a nearby camp, where they were requested to stay for their safety,” Cabangbang said.
Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad identified the two priests as Julius Boado and Elmer Cantular, both parish priests of Tumahubong, Sumisip town.
The military said a civilian was wounded when hit by a stray bullet.
Cabangbang said they would deploy more soldiers in Basilan to provide security for missionaries serving in the province.
Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said he believes the Abu Sayyaf group behind the slay try on the priests was also behind an ambush that killed six rubber plantation workers and left 21 others wounded last week.
Cabunoc said the incident prompted senior local leaders of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to meet and discuss the security situation in the area.The meeting was attended by ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman, Jumoad, military, and police officials.
Jumoad said they will not pull out the priests in the area despite threats to their safety.
“There are still Catholics in Tumahubong. The more people need spiritual leaders in these critical moments. We priests don’t only stay in comfortable places. We need your prayers,” Jumoad said.
He said he would visit the two priests today. – With Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan