Red-tagged doctor was a people’s doctor
We, the Council for Health and Development, a national organization of community-based health programs in the Philippines, condemn in the strongest possible terms the cold-blooded murder of Dr. Mary Rose Genisan Sancelan and her husband Edwin Sancelan last Dec. 15 in Negros Oriental. We are enraged that such 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 at this most difficult time.
Doctor Sancelan in her youth dreamt of becoming a doctor to serve her people in Guihulngan. That dream was made possible through the help of the Franciscan friars who supported her as a scholar until she finished medicine.
Instead of using her license to heal to pursue a more lucrative practice in the cities, Doctor Sancelan went back to Guihulngan and served as its only public health physician until she became city health officer a few years ago.
She was a quiet, soft-spoken, and dedicated doctor whose gargantuan tasks as the city health officer involved not just medical consultation but administrative work as well.
But instead of getting recognition for her selfless service as Guihulngan’s only public doctor servicing 33 barangays, she found her name in a “hit list” of Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista, an alleged anticommunist group in Negros Oriental, in 2019. She was tagged as “JB Regalado,” the spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command of NPA-Central Negros. Also in the list were lawyer Anthony Trinidad and teacher Heidi Malalay Flores who were killed in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
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. She served as the city nutrition action officer of Guihulngan and was the incident commander of Guihulngan’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases before her death.
Our hearts go out to the Sancelan family as well as her friends and colleagues. We remember Zara Alvarez, a beloved health and human rights worker of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, who was also brazenly killed in August this year.
Despite threats to their lives, both Alvarez and Dr. Sancelan never cowered and chose to continue serving the people of Negros.
Even as we mourn their deaths, our rage impels us to condemn the impunity reigning in our land. Red-tagging kills. Stop the attacks. End impunity.
Magdalena Barcelon, MD, Eleanor Jara, MD, Sr. Edita Eslopor, OSB, Board of Trustees, Council for Health and Development, [email protected]
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