8 senators seek investigation on doctor’s slay, other killings

Senator Risa Hontiveros. Photo from

Eight senators are seeking an investigation into the spate of brutal killings in the country, including the murder of a Guihulngan City health officer and her husband.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, in Senate Resolution 599 that was filed today, December 18, said: “This attack is only one of the many horrific killings in the country, legitimized by an administration that has distorted the meaning of human rights.”

Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, who was also the local Inter-Agency Task Force incident commander, and her husband Edwin Sancelan, a local government employee, were on their way home when they were shot dead by an unidentified suspect on December 15.

Dr. Sancelan was number one on the hit list of local anti-communist vigilante group KAGUBAK, or Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Kumunista. She was accused to be part of the New People’s Army.

The resolution, which seeks to attain justice for the victims of the unlawful and vigilante killings was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, Richard J. Gordon, Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima.

“At a time of the biggest health crisis the country has ever seen, I am alarmed that this anti-communist agenda reigned over the literal health and survival of the Filipino people. Dr. Sancelan and her husband are only few of the victims of a failing and senseless red-tagging campaign hellbent on crippling our democracy,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

She also asked everyone, especially the government officials, “to cease all careless and pernicious red-tagging of our people. Innocent lives are at stake.”

“When you openly vilify and tag civilians as communist rebels, you only lend credence to the suspicion that you have blood on your hands,” she added.

She stressed in the resolution the litany of killings that occurred this year, including the murder of human rights defender Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City in August.

“The killings that occurred in the latter half of the year have set a disturbing trend of unidentified gunmen killing lawyers, doctors, journalists, and activists in broad daylight, without fear of arrest or apprehension. The increasing brazenness shows that the law enforcement authorities have lost control of the country’s peace and order,” she pointed out.


The Council for Health and Development, the national organization of community-based health programs in the country, in a statement, said that it condemns in the strongest possible terms the cold-blooded murder of Sancelan and her husband.

“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 of much needed health services, especially in this most difficult time,” they said.

“Dr. 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”, they added.

Instead of using her license to heal in a more lucrative practice in the cities, Dr. Sancelan went back to Guihulngan and served as its only public health physician until she became City Health Officer a few years ago, they added.

“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,” they said.

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 an anti-communist group, they said.

“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,” they said.

The group also remembered Alvarez as 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 Zara and Dr. Sancelan never cowered and chose to continue serving the people of Negros,” they said.

They added, “even as we mourn their deaths, our rage impels us to condemn impunity reigning in our land. Red-tagging kills. Stop the attacks. End impunity.”*

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