National Center for Mental Health chief, employee shot dead in QC

Gillan Ropero and Jeff Hernaez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 02:18 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2020 03:26 PM

National Center for Mental Health chief, employee shot dead in QC 1
Police found National Center for Mental Health director Roland Cortez and employee Ernesto dela Cruz dead from multiple gunshot wounds inside a vehicle in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City early Monday. Doland Castro, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The director of the National Center for Mental Health and another employee were gunned down early Monday in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, police said.

Police on patrol found Dr. Roland Cortez and NCMH employee Ernesto dela Cruz dead with gunshot wounds inside a red sedan parked on the corner of Cassanova Drive and Tandang Sora Avenue, said Staff Sgt. Rowen Insecto of the QC Police District Station 3.

Cortez had multiple gunshot wounds, according to his wife, said Dr. Elpidio Nolasco, who works under the NCMH director's office.

A tricycle driver said gunmen onboard a motorcycle knocked on the victims' vehicle and shot at them as they opened the door. The assailants then fled towards Commonwealth Avenue, according to the initial police report.

Investigation is ongoing.

The Department of Health (DOH) said it was coordinating with authorities to "ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"The DOH family extends its deepest condolences to the families of Dr. Roland and Mr. Ernesto. Dr. Cortez was a respected leader who sought to treat clients with utmost dignity," it said in a statement.

"The DOH denounces all violent acts committed against health care workers, especially during these difficult times."

Cortez was head of the NCMH as it drew criticism over its handling of COVID-19 cases in the facility earlier this year. In April, he denied a hospital executive's claims that the Mandaluyong-based facility was covering up its number of COVID-19 cases.

Last month, Cortez said all of the hospital’s 3,200 patients and 2,435 staff were free from COVID-19.

The NCMH is a special research training center and hospital licensed by the Department of Health and accredited by PhilHealth. It has an authorized bed capacity of 4,200 inpatients and served an average of 56,000 outpatients per year.