Murder of doctor prompts interfaith group to question anti-insurgency drive

Dec. 28, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – An interfaith advocacy group denounced the killing of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan in Guihulngan, Negros Occidental as a “pitfall” of the government’s current anti-communist witch-hunt.

Dr. Sancelan, head of the Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19, was killed along with her husband Edwin, a local government employee, by gunmen last December 15.

Reports from media and human rights groups said Sanceslan was accused last year by an anti-vigilante group Kagubak, as the spokesperson of the local New People’s Army command in the province.

The Partnership Mission for People’s Initiative (PMPI), formerly known as Misereor Philippines, said Sancelan’s murder “demonstrates the pitfall of a governance that is hell bent on controlling any form of criticisms and of ridding the Philippines of the so-called communist which it sees as its biggest enemy.”

PMPI said the government could have focused its energy to manage the coronavirus pandemic and investigate the alleged corruption and inefficiency of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in handling the pandemic.

But instead, the government has prioritized the anti-communist campaign with the additional funds for the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), they said.

The NTF-ELCAC has recently red-tagged the Makabayan bloc in Congress and film actresses for their advocacies. While in regions in Mindanao, posters had been spread vilifying local human rights defenders and media workers as communists.

PMPI said it is “concerned and horrified that since the Anti-Terror Act’s passage and the creation of the [NTF-ELCAC], we are witnessing a spate of arrests and killings.”

“We believe that red tagging is dangerous and divisive. It is a regression to the country’s continuing pursuit to institutionalize the practice of democracy. It has led to the revival of local anti-communist vigilante groups attacks as well as law enforcement operations, searches, and arrests and even death of red-tagged civilians,” it added.

PMPI said: “We call on our state-agencies to live by the rule of law and not to err on the side of human rights. The life of every human being is important.”

The PMPI also said it believes that the problem of communist insurgency cannot be solved by the use of arms and violence as proven in the country’s history.

“’Violence begets violence.’ Government should learn from the past anti-communist campaigns of previous governments. Their campaigns changed nothing. Leaders and members of the underground movement have been arrested and killed, yet new leaders emerge and inspire the movement to persist,” the group added.

“That this movement continue to endure should make governments examine thoroughly the roots of their rebellion against government. We implore [government] to go to the communities, especially in the far-flung areas where this movement is thriving strong,” it said.

Let the community feel that they have a government to lean on, PMPI said.

“Government has been absent in their lives. This is the reason also why NGOs like us thrive, to make up and fill up the gaps that you cannot fulfill, yet you suspect us being communists,” it added.

“Thus, red tagging is indeed repulsive. It separates and marginalizes social development groups and agencies both local and international which truly wish to help people achieve a better life,” PMPI said. (

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