Roughly a year after being listed as a spokesperson for the New People’s Army by an anticommunist vigilante group, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, health officer of Guihulngan City was shot dead, along with her husband, by two men on a motorcycle.
Dr. Sancelan was on top of the list of Guihulngan residents whom the anticommunist vigilante group “Kagubak” accused of being supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
The list, that was released in 2018, identified her without providing evidence as “Ka JB Regalado”, who was then the spokesperson for the NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command. Two others on the list – lawyer Anthony Trinidad and Heidi Malalay Flores – have since been murdered, their cases remain unsolved.
Sancelan had already expressed fears over her safety after she was Red-tagged in a video statement sent to a peace forum in Manila in September 2019. “I feel helpless and paranoid when I go out to work. Of course, I am afraid to die. I am no longer free to go to the countryside and perform basic services like school-based immunizations,” the now dead head of the Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases said. She was the lone physician in her office doing both consultations and administrative work.
The brazen murder of Dr. Sancelan and her husband illustrates the dangers of how Red-tagging poses a clear and present danger to the lives of those accused as affiliated with communist groups. In a country where laws are supposed to reign supreme, Red-tagging does not require evidence from accusers but the penalty for the accused is often death at the hands of trigger-happy executioners whose deadly trade thrives in a culture of impunity.
The propagation of lists that result in execution of people who were never given a chance to defend themselves in a court of law do not belong in a democracy with a working justice system. Is the Philippine government going to do something about this attack on its citizens and the values it supposedly stands for?*