Does ‘red-tagging’ kill?

The Makabayan bloc was quick to condemn the cold-blooded murder of a municipal health physician in Negros Oriental and his wife by unknown assailants on Tuesday, Dec. 15, as proof that “red-tagging” can be deadly.

According to police reports, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband Erwin were on their way home when ambushed by the gunmen, hitting them several times. Both were declared DOA at the local hospital.

The left-leaning group Karapatan said Dr. Sancelan had long been in the “hit list” of an anti-communist vigilante group.

Of course, it is easy to attribute the twin murder to Dr. Sancelan’s alleged involvement in left-leaning organizations. But it doesn’t mean it’s the handiwork of the military, or the vigilante group. Knowing the propensity of the NPA to kill their own, that possibility remains.

One thing I know is that tensions in Guinhulgan City have been high for quite sometime now. It is a “battleground” territory between the NPA and the government.

Three years ago, NPA terrorists ambush a police vehicle that was responding to a call for assistance from a city councilor. Six police officers, including the city police chief, were slaughtered by the NPA terrorists armed with machine guns perched mountainous positions.

On March 3 this year, four Army soldiers were wounded when NPA terrorists waylaid them as they travelled along a mountainous highway also in Guinhulgan City.

Last July 1, a lone Army soldier aboard a motorcycle was shot and killed by NPA terrorists in the same city.

It’s not just the police and military that are on the crosshairs of the NPA in Guinhulgan City. Local officials identified to be active in the anti-insurgency movement have also been slain. Not surprisingly, these attacks triggered a violent response from anti-NPA organizations in the area.

In a four-month period following the deadly July 2017 ambush, nine “red-tagged” individuals were shot and killed by vigilante groups. More could have been added to that list since 2017, with the slaying of Dr. Sancelan and her husband as the latest addition to the growing number of fatalities.

What is clear to me is that this latest incident isn’t because of the “red-tagging” issue that’s being investigated by the Senate. NPAs and pro-military groups are after each others’ necks in Guinhulgan City. A fierce localized war is being waged, with each side wanting to settle scores when one, or several, of their own get killed.

Guinhulgan is being turned by the NPA into a laboratory for waging its insurgency. It wants to prove it can control territory. It’s time the government gave the situation special attention.

Perhaps the President can consider declaring martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Guinhulgan and the adjoining municipalities to give the military the ability to hunt down these NPA terrorists.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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