Red-tagged doctor, hubby buried amid cries for justice

The Guilhulngan City health officer and her husband who were mercilessly shot to death on December 15 were buried in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, this afternoon, December 22, amid cries for justice and an end to red-tagging.

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, on December 15.

The senseless killing of the Sancelans is among the 106 cases of extrajudicial killings recorded so far in Negros Island under the Duterte administration, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said in his homily at their funeral mass at the Our Lady of Buensuceso Parish Church in Guihulngan.

The death of the couple left their only child, Red Emmanuel, who will turn 21 on Thursday, December 24, orphaned. He is a third year medical technology student at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, the bishop said.

After the funeral mass, those present were asked to leave the church so the relatives of Edwin who are from Victorias City in Negros Occidental could enter and pay their last respects. The relatives were wearing PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) since they are not from Negros Oriental and had to observe COVID-19 health protocols, Alminaza said.

Edwin’s 85-year-old mother went to Guihulngan thinking it was for the celebration of her grandson’s birthday on December 24 only to be told it was for the funeral of her son, the bishop said.

Dr. Sancelan feared her death, apprehensive that the hit list of KAGUBAK (Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista), an anti-communist vigilante group, would soon be realized, the bishop said.

“Our people’s doctor dedicated her life to end both the COVID pandemic and the pandemic of injustice. Committed to social justice, she tirelessly and prophetically spoke against human rights violations, militarization, and the political imbalance in our locality — consistently insisting on the need to address the roots of our social crisis to achieve just peace”, Alminaza said.

“Dr. Mary Rose took eight bullets on our behalf; and her husband, Edwin, took five. Sadly, their son, Red Emmanuel, bears all the pain of the violent demise of his parents. Together, we accompany him in his quest for justice”, the bishop said.

Alminaza said the International Criminal Court, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights agencies have more reasons to demand from the Philippine government accountability for the rampant human rights violations such as the unbridled summary killings, and the absence of the rule of law.

The ICC Report, released hours before the Guihulngan killings, said: “It has also been alleged that some of these vigilante-style executions purportedly committed by private citizens or groups were planned, directed and/or coordinated by members of the PNP, and/or were actually committed by members of law enforcement who concealed their identity and took measures to make the killings appear to have instead been perpetrated by vigilantes,” the bishop pointed out.

We can never speak of peace when the bloodbath continues, he said.

“Peace is real, when we stop firing our guns, when we refuse to pull the trigger on a person’s life, when we stop becoming enablers of injustice,” the bishop stressed.

Alminaza said they are now raising their prophetic voice, undertaking a sustained protest action in Guihulngan City and Diocese of San Carlos to stop the killings and to end the deafening silence of the people and of public officials.

“It is sad that militarization defines our peace and order, not the security of our citizens. We call on our city to seriously work for justice among the citizens living in Guihulngan. We call upon our mayor and city officials to take to heart their utmost duty to protect the people in this city We challenge our local government to not become a political hostage of this oppressive killing policy,” he said

“I am asking the police community and the military now deployed in this war-ridden small city – solve the crimes. Avoid creating violence,” he said.

The bishop also asked the vigilante group, KAGUBAK, to stop terrorizing the people in Guihulngan with a list of those to be killed.

As Christians, let it be our obligation to demand an end to violence, he said.

“Christmas must inspire and embolden us to advocate for a peaceful city, for a peaceful island and for a peaceful country— free from the senseless killing,” Alminaza said.

The bishop appealed to the faithful to come to mass in white on Christmas eve and Christmas day (Dec. 24 and 25), as well as on New Year’s eve and day (Dec. 31 and Jan.1) to call for an to the killings, the COVID pandemic and abuse of our common home.

The 8 p.m. ringing of Church bells to call for an end to the killings will also continue in the Diocese of San Carlos this Christmas, he added.*

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