Another One Bites the Dust

I came across the news that a former schoolmate was felled by bullets in front of her daughter very recently. My “sangay”/namesake Dr. Rogelio “Bong” Peñera, 46 has just become another macabre statistic in the Philippines.
Activist doctor shot dead in Davao – Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – – -A doctor of the regional health office who headed the epidemiological research and surveillance department, the unit tasked to monitor and address the A (H1N1) flu cases, was shot dead in his car while going home last night.

Dr. Rogelio “Bong” Peñera, 46, was driving home to Countryville subdivision in Barangay Cabantian with his 15 year old daughter when shot.

Police told Bombo Radyo Davao that the victim sustained several gunshot wounds on his head. His daughter was also reported to have been hit and was treated at the Davao Medical Center.

The killers were on board two DT motorcycles. They fired their guns at the doctor inside his blue Honda Civic car.

Empty shells of .45 caliber pistols were recovered at the crime scene.

Assistant Regional Director Dr. Salvador Estrera told RMN-DXDC Davao radio that DOH was about to send Peñera, an expert in infectious diseases, to the University of the Philippines for further studies but the plan was stalled because of the A (H1N1) pandemic.

Estreras said Peñera was an expert in dengue and malaria, diseases which commonly afflict poor communities.

But Davao-based Bayan Muna national vice president Joel Virador said Peñera was also active in political campaigns that sought government’s attention to the sordid state of the country’s health care delivery.

Peñera was active in groups like the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), the Rx for Peace and Health People United for the Removal of Gloria (Purga), a group of medical practitioners and health workers calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He actively opposed the privatization of public hospitals and fought for the delivery of basic health services, including free medicines, to poor communities in the region. (Cheryll Fiel/davaotoday.com)

High school was over. Gone were the “bagets” days. Having gotten the red light from my parents that Diliman or Los Baños was not an option lest  I wind up with a Mao hat, mao’s red book, Joma’s PSR and an AK-47. I was resigned to more years of quiet desperation within the four walls of the sectarian university, listening to the mantra “Man for Others” living the gimikero life of the petit bourgeoisie amidst an ocean of proletarian discontent that was raging in the streets.

A tall lanky senior in the Pre-med program was assigned to orient a class of impish freshmen that included moi. Later on we were exchanging notes in the laboratory as we dissected cats and frogs in anatomy class.  Our paths crossed many times as I underwent the pre-med program – inter-division cheering competition, playing the guitar during saturday and Sunday mass, refining political strategy for the student council elections, and the first wave of general transport strikes that was piloted in Davao and later on replicated nationwide.

As is the norm after college, life goes on and the years go by so quickly. And it has gone a lot quicker and deadlier for Dr. Bong Peñera, like many others who articulated and acted on their advocacy for a more egalitarian society. I am actually surprised that he has come this far in pursuing his advocacy. All the while, I though it was a fluke – one of those things one does in college para “in” with the babes (not that it is done on purpose, consider it as one of the perks and risks).

I just couldn’t picture the good doctor as a “militant” because he was soft-spoken, in-control of his emotions, rational, and levelheaded. Or perhaps, the definition has been changed. Or perhaps, the years of treating and healing the tired, the weary, the sick, and the dispossessed had taken its toll and strengthened his resolve to be “a man for others”.

To Dr. Rogelio “Bong” Peñera and all those who have made the supreme sacrifice for freedom, prosperity, community, and humanity – you all have done this nation a great service, Thank you, I will always remember you, my friend.

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