MANILA - A prelate on Friday urged the Philippine government to conduct an "impartial and serious" investigation in the continuing bloodbath in Negros island, following the recent murder of a red-tagged doctor and her husband.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Negros Oriental, in an interview with ANC, issued an urgent call to solve the spate of killings that has hounded the island since 2017.
"Sad to say, you know, until now, we are still expecting a clear result, if there's at all, of serious investigation about it," he said.
"That's what precisely we're asking, a serious, impartial investigation will be conducted, not only about the death of Dr. [Mary Rose] Sancelan but all the other people who were killed."
"I think it's important that now we seriously look into this problem because we can't wait anymore for many other people to be killed before we take action on this," Alminaza added.
Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, head of the local COVID-19 task force in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and her husband Edwin Sancelan, a local government employee, were shot and killed by assailants on motorcycle on Tuesday.
Mary Rose, the lone doctor of Guihulngan City's 33 villages, was red-tagged by a local anti-communist vigilante group in 2018. She was accused of being a local head of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
Two others on the list, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, had also been killed.
Since 2017, Negros island has witnessed a bloodbath among sugar workers, rights defenders, church workers, lawyers, teachers, and even local officials and retired government professionals.
Before Tuesday's incident, Alminaza said he and Mary Rose sat down with the police and military to clear her name.
"The last time I met her we thought it was okay already because she's very much involved in controlling the pandemic, but it was a shock to hear about her murder, that she was murdered together with her husband," the bishop said.
Alminaza said Mary Rose was accused of being involved in the communist insurgency because the doctor would go to the hinterlands to provide medical services to indigents.
For him, Mary Rose's killing is "big slap in the face of local government."
"We were hoping they'll be able to really address this problem and now it has happened again. It looks like they are helpless to respond to this," he said.
The Senate in 2019 launched an investigation in the killings in Negros island, which include the case of 14 farmers who were massacred in Sagay City, Negros Oriental.