Volunteer doctor slain in Lanao del Norte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) - With the lack of adequate health services in remote villages across the Philippines, the Department of Health continues its call for volunteer doctors and health workers.

One such volunteer was doctor Dreyfuss Perlas, who chose to stay in Sapad town in Lanao del Norte, after completing the Department of Health's Doctors to the Barrios Program.

But not everyone was happy with his presence.

On March 1, Dr. Perlas was shot dead. His mother says it's possible the killing may have been work-related.

Authorities are now investigating Perlas' death.

"Sa mga classmates niya sa elementary tsaka mga doktor na best friend niya, meron pala siyang text doon na may death threat siya. Pero sabi nila tinatawanan lang daw ni Dreyfuss yung death threat kasi si Dreyfuss, ano yan, hindi natatakot," said Leovigilda Perlas, Dreyfuss' mother, in a phone call.

[Translation: I've heard from his classmates in elementary and his doctor friends, he got a text, a death threat. But they say he just laughs those off because Dreyfuss isn't frightened by those.]

Elvira Dayrit of DOH says Perlas was committed to serving the poor since he chose to stay in the fifth class municipality.

"Doctor Dreyfuss had a choice. He chose to go to Lanao. Pero pwedeng hindi doon. He was really motivated," Dayrit said.

DOH started the Doctors to the Barrios Program in 1993.

Under the program, doctors need to spend two years in a community as a volunteer worker.

DOH says Perlas is the second doctor in the program to be killed in service. The first died in 2007 but the circumstances are unknown since no case was filed.

Upon Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial's request, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Perlas' death.

Mrs. Perlas hopes her son's killing will be solved as soon as possible.

"Ang panawagan ko talaga mabigyan ng hustisya yung anak ko, na mahuli yung salarin kasi yung anak ko nagsilbi yun sa kanila na instead na... maganda naman buhay namin dito eh. Gusto niya talaga makatulong sa depressed areas," Mrs. Perlas said.

[Translation: I'm making a call for justice to my son's death, that my son's assailant is captured. My son chose to serve them instead of… staying here where we get by with our lives. He really wanted to help out in depressed areas."]

Ubial also appealed to local governments to help in protecting doctors and health workers.

"We ask our local governments to protect our doctors and health workers and help them so they can serve you better," Ubial said.

In recognition of Perlas' service, the DOH will posthumously recognize him as a "Bayani ng Kalusugan" for 2017. The award, along with ₱200,000 pesos, will be received by his family.