Bishop: Slain doc’s only crime was unselfish service to the poor

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The only crime of the Guihulngan City health officer who was mercilessly shot to death with her husband Tuesday, December 15, was her unselfish service to the people of Guihulngan – both as a barrio doctor and as a defender of the poor, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said today, December 16.

Dr. Mary Rose Genisan Sancelan, and husband Edwin Sancelan, a local government employee, were on their way home when an unidentified suspect shot them outside Carmen Ville Subdivision in Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, at 5:20 p.m. Tuesday, December 15.

The victims sustained gunshot wounds on different parts of their bodies and were pronounced dead on arrival at the Guihulngan hospital.

Dr. Sancelan was branded, vilified, red-tagged, and executed, by the ruthless pawns of the enablers of “systematic killings” in this country, Alminaza said.

Sancelan’s life and her commitment to true government service deserved a worthy recognition, he said.

Sadly, the same government that was expected to recognize her dedication to government service failed to protect her, he added.

The bishop called for a swift and determined investigation into the killing of the Sancelans.

He also called on the faithful to join him in prayer in the face of unstoppable murders in the Diocese of San Carlos.

“Join me in hope that these killings will soon end. But join me, too, in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the senseless murder of helpless civilians and dedicated servants of government,” Alminaza said.

Alminaza said he thought it was welcome news among peace-loving Filipinos when the International Criminal Court released its “Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2020,” as a step to further their collective desire to end the systematic and uncontrolled killings.

As stated in the report “the office anticipates reaching a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines in the first half of 2021”, he pointed out.

“Suddenly, a few hours after the release of the ICC statement, assassins murdered Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband Edwin. It was brutal, marked by a desire to end the pro-people service of Dr. Sacelan to her constituents,” he added.

The Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) said “The Task Force reels from the courageous and dedicated frontliner who was instrumental in placing under control the previous spike of COVID-19 cases in the City last November… We are confused and in shock of this painful fate befalling our fellow public servants. Even now, we grapple to fill the gaping void Dr. Sancelan left in the service and in the Task Force.”

This is unwelcoming of the spirit of the Season of Christmas, very much like in the days towards Jesus’ birth, when Herod intended to kill the Savior, Alminaza said.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares in a joint statement today also condemned the killing of the Sancelans.

Karapatan Negros said Dr. Sancelan was included in a supposed “hit list” by the anti-communist group Kagubak. She was supposedly identified as an assassination target on the false allegation that she is the spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army in Central Negros.

The hit list, aside from Sancelan, also included lawyer Anthony Trinidad and Heidie Malalay Flores, who were also killed, it said.

“This is the extreme danger of being red-tagged because state forces and their cohorts may just assassinate you with impunity,” Colmenares said.

“This has to be stopped now and we hope that the International Criminal Court would launch a full investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines sooner rather than later,” he added.

Zarate said that “this brazen attack is the height of impunity considering that the ICC Office of the Prosecutor had just released its initial report. It is as if the undemocratic and militarist forces in this country is daring the office to take action now because these forces are protected and cannot be touched.”

“It is also very tragically ironic that Dr. Sancelan is a frontliner and is, in fact, the head of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in the city, which handles the government response on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. These assassins really respect no one,” he added.*

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