Slain doctor’s family, friends to continue his charity work; decry ‘senseless murder’ by foreigner



Grief and gratitude.

Anger and a call to honor his wish for peace.

Indignation over the “Hall of Injustice” where he was killed.

A challenge to make “change” happen.

A mixture of emotions spilled out in Friday evening’s memorial service for Dr. Reynold Rene Rafols, who was shot dead along with his lawyer Jubian Achas, in a courtroom bloodbath in Cebu’s Palace of Justice that left many groping for a way forward from the violence.

Those who knew Rafols best – his family, Cebu’s top surgeons, golfing buddies and several lawyers –  said the 57-year-old pediatric surgeon was a soft-hearted, jovial man who went out of his way to handle charity cases of sick children who couldn’t afford to pay for an operation.

Every Wednesday, he held clinic in the government-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center to attend to indigent patients.

Since he loved golf, Rafols set up a foundation eight years ago with lawyer and doctor friends to raise funds through their golf tournaments to pay bills for MRI and CT scans needed by child charity cases.

It was a “senseless murder”, said Dr. Rudy Amatong, his close friend of over 30 years.

Amatong said the surgeon, would still be alive today helping more children “if not for the lapses of all our authorities.”

Rafols, who will be laid to rest today at the Angelicum Garden of Angels in Mandaue City, is survived by his wife Elaine, a pediatrician, and two daughters in their 20s, Isabella and Margarita.


In Friday’s memorial service, younger daughter Margarita made a tearful plea that “there will be change” so that no family would suffer this kind of violence again.

“I hope that when you go home tonight, please think about what good can come out of this situation,” said the young woman.

At the vigil wake in the St. Peter’s Funeral Home in Cebu City, two coffins were laid side by side, one for the doctor and the lawyer, Achas, who is a cousin of the doctor’s wife.

According to fellow doctors and lawyers, Rene Rafols and his wife Elaine were harassed for the past three years by the gunman, an angry ex-neighbor.

Canadian retiree John Pope, who was facing deportation, shot himself in the head, after gunning down Rafols, his lawyer and a lady prosecutor using a gun he had slipped into the government building last week.

The Jan. 22 shooting was set off by a series of events that started with neighbors’ complaints that Pope, who lived alone, would bring in local children to his unit at night in the Tuscania Condominium. Rafols, the homeowners association president at the time, put his foot down and had security guards disallow their entry.

After that, incidents of rock throwing at Rafols’ house led to the filing of cases of malicious mischief, and later a stalking incident with Pope spotted outside the Rafols’ clinic carrying a gun. The foreigner sold his unit and moved to a row house in barangay Kalunasan.


“Many people offered to solve his problem by eliminating this troublesome foreigner,” said Dr. Shawn Espina, a fellow surgeon in his eulogy.

But Rafols was a “good and decent man” and insisted on taking the legal route, he said.(Read Dr. Espina’s complete testimonial in Opinion page 10)

“I promised myself that I would do something to keep this from ever happening again. This is the second time a doctor has been killed. Dr. Jane Chua was his classmate,” said Espina.

“He used to say that maybe he would end up like Jane. Surely by now we are able to recognize the crazy ones among our patients or neighbors. Many of them are foreigners.”

Espina was referring to the February 2006 attack where Chua, an internist, was shot dead in her clinic by an overstaying Dutch national who then killed himself with an unlicensed .38 caliber pistol. The man, who had previously gone to her for a consultation, was believed to be mentally imbalanced, according to the police.

Espina appealed for friends of the slain Rafols and his lawyer “to see Rene’s dreams and aspirations through” in order that their deaths “would not be in vain.” and as part of “the challenge of finding out God’s reasons for our drastic loss.”

“For us, the Dr. Rene Rafols Memorial Women’s and Children’s Center is as good as done,” he said, with an appeal to nuns of the Perpetual Succour Hospital to support it.

He also challenged the Mandaue Lawyers Association (Manlaw) to help work towards stricter screening rules of foreigners applying with the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) to live in the country.

“Only when we have proven John Pope wrong would they (the victims) be avenged. Violence does not beget violence, it should beget patience and understanding. That is what Rene wanted.”

Espina was referring to a statement of Pope in his draft book “Justice Denied” where the Canadian, who described his frustrations with local police, prosecutors, the Bureau of Immigration, and building resentment for Rafols, said: If there is any general lesson to be learned, it has to be that violence begets violence.”


Rafols was founder of the Medico-Legal Golf Foundation, which raised funds for child patients to get costly MRI and CT scans required for surgery in the government-run VSMMC.

In Friday’s wake, lawyer Tito Pintor showed a video of over a dozen children from the Visayas and Mindano who had come to their office to avail of assistance. Pinto later said they would rename the foundation after Rafols.

Lawyer Mat Jo also explained that it was because of his personal concern for “poor, helpless children” that the doctor intervened in Pope’s residency in the condominium and ended up killed. (See story on page 2).

Rafols was not just a private doctor who did welfare cases on the side. He was sought after as one of only five pediatric surgeons in Cebu to operate on babies and children.

“He used his hands to save lives,” said Dr. Vidal Redulla, a pediatrician.

“His death left a big void in the medical community in Cebu,” he said because Rafols was also a teaching surgeon, who trained several batches of surgeons now doing working in different parts of the country.

Redulla confirmed that “many advised Rafols to hire someone” to stop the Canadian from bothering him, but that Rafols, in one conversation, told him he would “not take the easy way out”.

“Our job is to save lives… I will do what his right,” the slain doctor was quoted as saying.

“He trusted in our courts and the agencies of government in spite of the difficult hurdles he had to go through,” said Redulla.

“Rene chose the noble path of peace, the righteous path and that is the way he wants us to take.”


The doctor’s widow Elaine, was calm, and full of gratitude as she spoke at the end of the memorial service.

She said the family was comforted by the presence of friends and colleagues, especially young residents Rafols had trained.

“He dedicated his life to his patients. As far as I know he was the only consultant who did actual clinic in Vicente Sotto every Wednesday and would ask residents to gather all the difficult cases for review and schedule them for surgery. He always found time to give service to those who couldn’t afford it.”

“He could never say no,” she recalled.

“Those who couldn’t afford to pay his PF (professional fee), thank you for enriching our lives.”

Rafols graduated from the Cebu Institute of Medicine in 1979, and was a resident in Cebu Velez General Hospital in the department of general surgery in 1985.

He did his residency for pediatrics surgery in the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Manila in 1987. He came home to Cebu and opened his private practice a year after. Eileen G. Mangubat

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • kilabot

    foreigners who want to live in the country should undergo among others: 
    1) psychiatric test; 
    2) perversion test; 
    3) psychological test.

    • rgf_md

       we might as well include prohibited drug test kabayan.

      • D L

        as far as i remember there is a number of tests already, drugs, nbi etc.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/FXNIN7XJ52H6BOQLS7NRMO3GEA Lorelei

        Home is just a plane ride away if living in the Phils. has become intolerable. I’m sure nobody would mind if you just went home ASAP.

      • D L

        The difference between you and me I take plane and stay where I want for pleasure and you go abroad to work to feed your family, because you cannot do it in your country, think about it.

        As things definitely are getting worse they are not yet intolerable. Most crime and abuse of power is in Manila and urbanized areas, my location in the Philippines is not there.

    • D L

      The article is likely just reader’s mind conditioning.

      When one is talking about a doctor my doubts would run very high immediately, we all know no money and you have a health problem you’ll just die, so in the strict sense they are not doctors, since instead of hippocratic oath they are all apparently hypocrites, did you see even one doctor who would stop on the way out of the hospital going after work towards his toyota fortuner and order the reception to let a patient without money in? i would need solid history and not just a suddenly revealed mother theresa character.

      As a foreigner living in the Philippines I would never buy a condo with locals as neighbours, because even in other countries owning a condo is a risk to be intimidated from home association or neighbours playing loud music or doing small nasty things, the laws in the Philippines are even more vague with the 50 years limitation and guess what happens after 50 years since the land still belongs to a corporation which built and manages usually poorly built highrise structure with cardboard doors and with no law governing monthly dues.

      We don’t know anything which happened in this case.

      We only can guess the conflict run very deep. “Many people offered to solve his problem by eliminating this troublesome foreigner”. we don’t know if it was soft hearted or if killed – it wouldn’t be hard for police to guess who would stand behind it.

      “who went out of his way to handle charity cases of sick children who couldn’t afford to pay for an operation.” … by setting up “a foundation eight years ago with lawyer and doctor friends to raise funds through their golf tournaments to pay bills for MRI and CT scans needed by child charity cases.”  GOLF???

      “Every Wednesday, he held clinic in the government-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center to attend to indigent patients.”

      ok if doctor is not a genious working in st. luke – work in goverment hospitals is a source of income, as i know they are paid goverment salary and it is common for a doctor to share his work hours between public and private hospital.

      My theory is that the Canadian got his retirement dreams shattered, probably due to ill health and high cost of living in the Philippines (you cannot compare it to 10 years ago), then his neighbours added on the top and he couldn’t deal with it.

      What I know for sure, where I live there is a charity foundation (guess, it is not Filipino) and the doctor I know (guess, he is a foreigner) working for the foundation full time, no patient fee, with imported free medicines. What he complains about it became more difficult to bring the free medicines and consumables into the country because of customs people asking for all kinds of papers.

      Because of lack of space I’ll skip talking about lawyers :)

      Golf my аss.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.waddington2 Brian Waddington

    I am a Canadian. I work for Peace and Development in the Philippines because my wife is a patriot and wishes to do what good she can do for her homeland, the Philippines.

    This tragedy happened for many reasons but not because John Pope was a foreign devil. Perhaps the gun laws need revision. Perhaps the security at the court house in inadequate. Perhaps John Pope was simply insane… as insane as the man who killed and wounded so many in a market last week?

    • D L

      The article is a provocation. One shouldn’t distinguish between a foreigner and local in murder cases.

      It is far more likely for a foreigner to be killed by a Filipino than the opposite. Generally foreigners are subjected to the same risks.

      During a little more than one year I witnessed a bus robbery and was pickpocketed. The Philippines are significantly less safer now to live in than 10 years ago. Plus lacking health care for general population, uncontrollably rising prices fuelling crime etc. Population becomes more angry and agressive especially in high urbanized areas and any outlet to let out the anger is being exploited, like foreigners or US military presence, because they just don’t see the real cause, namely chinese businesses absolute rule and Judas in power bought by the chinese.

      • Komen To

        “shouldn’t distinguish between a foreigner and local”… But you pinned down on the Chinese people in your ending statement. Inconsistent principle

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/FXNIN7XJ52H6BOQLS7NRMO3GEA Lorelei


      • D L

        It is more likely for you to die in air disaster than to die from a hand of a foreigner in the Philippines, it is not the case with and you won’t feel any better if you’ll be killed by a fellow Filipino.

        Right now I’m in Japan. The internet is blazingly fast, everything is clean and civilized.

        In the Philippines it could be the same if smart and globe executives were hanged along with the MMDA inventors of those ugly metal overpasses, just under one of those, using their SUVs as a stand.

        The difference is Japan and Chinese are enemies, Chinese are not welcome to stay in Japan and take over the country. What Japanese couldn’t achieve in the Philippines by war means Chinese did with quiet exploit and conquer tactics playing on Filipino naivity.

        Chinese in the Philippines make the rules and you just follow the rules, you have no balls to fight them. Every time you shop in a Chinese owned business you drag the country deeper into the modern form of slavery. After you finish with Chinese you could go after your own blood suckers.

        Are you blind people to see what chinks did to your country? How long you want to be the nation of servants?

        As long as you don’t even see your enemy you’ll remain slaves.

        Foreigners are an easy target, but all what they do is bringing money into your country.

  • Komen To

    In fairness to all, it’s not the nationality that’s causing problems. The Philippine authorities need to review its laws and the implementations. It saddens me when I see a guard so strict with poor Pinoys but very lenient to rich Pinoys and foreigners. If only Pope was prevented from bringing in guns, the incident may not have happened and Dr. Rafols might still be alive today. Unless, he bought the gun from someone authorized to bring in guns in a courtroom. Gun ban or gun control is useless if the police/guards miss their duties

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos