EDITORIAL- Tagged and murdered

EDITORIAL- Tagged and murdered

With health frontliners suffering a high number of casualties in the coronavirus pandemic, the country has lost another doctor. Mary Rose Sancelan, however, did not lose her life to COVID-19. The doctor, who headed the Inter-Agency Task Force Against Emerging Infectious Diseases in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental was killed together with her husband Edwin as they were driving home on their motorcycle on Dec. 15.

So far, the only possible motive for the ambush raised by the couple’s family and friends is related to the fact that a year ago, a vigilante group called Kagubak had accused Sancelan of supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New People’s Army. Sancelan topped a list of what Kagubak described as CPP-NPA supporters, identifying her as “Ka JB Regalado,” spokesperson for an NPA unit.

Sancelan, who denied being JB Regalado, had feared for her safety, particularly because two others on the same list – Heidi Malalay Flores and lawyer Anthony Trinidad – had also been murdered, in August 2018 and in July 2019, respectively.

The murders of Flores and Trinidad, also by motorcycle-riding gunmen like the assailants of the Sancelan couple, remain unsolved. Progressive groups have warned that persons red-tagged by the government could face threats to their life. The government has denied engaging in extrajudicial killings targeting persons seen to be supporting the CPP-NPA.

The nation deserves to know the truth, and to put an end to the deadly violence. The only way to do this is to solve the killings. Human rights groups active in Negros count at least 92 rights advocates, including teachers and church workers, who have been murdered since 2017, with Guihulngan accounting for the highest number of victims on Negros Island. Unless killers are caught, prosecuted and punished, there will be no end to the murders.