Philippines: ‘Red-tagged’ doctor, husband killed by vigilante group

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A provincial doctor in the Philippines and her husband were shot dead on Tuesday, one year after she was being “red-tagged” by a vigilante group.

Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, head of the Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases (GCIATF-EID) in Negros Oriental province was shot and killed along with her husband while on their way home, police said.

Various organizations on Wednesday condemned the killing of Dr. Sancelan, a frontliner in the fight against COVID-19, who was accused of being the spokesperson of the local command of the communist armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros.

Progressive lawmakers in the House of Representatives, health groups, and church leaders denounced the murder of Dr. Sancelan and her husband Edwin, saying it proved the “extreme danger” of being labelled as communists by state forces.

The killings happened on the same day that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor said there was “reasonable basis” to believe that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte committed crimes against humanity in its bloody war on illegal drugs.

Dr. Sancelan was on top of the list of Guihulngan residents whom the anti-communist vigilante group “Kagubak” accused of being supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA.

Kagubak stands for “Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista” (loosely translated as Concerned Guihulnganons against the Communists).”

The list, which was released in 2018, identified Sancelan as “Ka JB Regalado,” who was then the spokesperson for the NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command.

Two others on the list—lawyer Anthony Trinidad and Heidi Malalay Flores—had since been murdered, and their cases have remained unsolved.

Trinidad was gunned down in broad daylight by motorcycle-riding men on July 23, 2019, while driving in the city. His family has insisted that he had no links to communist rebels.

Flores meanwhile was killed in August 2018.

According to the provincial police, Sancelan and her husband Edwin, also an employee of the city government, were going home on board a motorcycle when one of two men on another motorcycle attacked them at 5:20 p.m.

The couple, who suffered bullet wounds in their bodies, were brought by rescuers to Guihulngan Hospital but were pronounced dead on arrival by the attending physician, the police reported.

Sancelan had expressed fears over her safety after she was Red-tagged in a video statement sent to a peace forum in Manila in September 2019.

“I feel helpless and paranoid when I go out to work. Of course, I am afraid to die. I am no longer free to go to the countryside and perform basic services like school-based immunizations,” she said.

Her workload, she said, was heavy as the lone physician in her office doing both consultations and administrative work.

“Although she feared for her life, Dr. Sancelan chose to stay in her beloved hometown and continued to be involved in public service even after her work in the city health office,” the Council for Health Development (CHD) said in a statement.

“We are enraged that such an act of impunity knows no bounds even at a time when the whole nation is gripped by the pandemic. Her killers deprived the people of Guihulngan much-needed health services, especially in this most difficult time,” it said. (Source: INQUIRER.Net)

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