Karapatan hits killing of red-tagged doctor, husband in Negros Oriental

Human rights group Karapatan condemned on Wednesday, December 16, the killing of a city health officer and her husband in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on December 15, saying that “the incident clearly shows how relentless vilification leads to merciless death.”

Initial reports said that Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband Edwin Sancelan were shot to death by motorcycle-riding gunmen while on their way home in Brgy. Poblacion in the said city. They were brought to a local hospital, but were declared dead on arrival.

“We are outraged with the brazen killing of Dr. Sancelan and her husband who were both employed at the local government of Guihulngan City before their tragic death. Their killing reveals that the threats of tagging individuals as part of the New People’s Army are real and certainly not contrived,” Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said.

Dr. Sancelan, the head of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Guihulngan City, was included in the so-called hit list of Kagubak, a local anti-communist vigilante group involved in red-tagging several organizations and individuals in the islands of Negros.

In one of the flyers obtained by the local chapter of Karapatan in Negros provinces, the city health officer was tagged as a certain individual who serves as the alleged spokesperson of one of the units of the New People’s Army. The other names included in the list are lawyer Anthony Trinidad and Heidie Malalay Flores who were both killed in recent years.

“The merciless death of the Sancelan couple reveals how the Duterte regime continuously turns various provinces into places of bloodbath since it passed orders such as the Executive Order No. 70 and Memorandum Order No. 32 to legitimize the intensified presence of the police and military,” she said.

The Karapatan official said that the incident is the latest in the spate of killings in Negros: “Last year, dozens of civilians, including peasant activists and a year-old child, were murdered in the series of killings in Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. This year, human rights worker Zara Alvarez became the 13th human rights worker of Karapatan killed under the Duterte administration.”

“How many more people need to suffer the fate of the dozens of individuals killed – red-tagged as terrorists and then end up dead? Health frontliners like them who rendered invaluable service and sacrifice especially during the pandemic were not only exposed to a deadly virus but to a dangerous political environment,” said Palabay.

“This pattern of killings of red-tagged individuals is precisely the cause for great alarm by many. There has been no credible and impartial investigation and prosecution of these killings, while the government through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict continues its dangerous spree,” she added. 

Karapatan expressed its condolences to the family of the victims. “We are one with them in their calls for justice and accountability,” Palabay ended.