Murder most foul

"It's cruel, unnatural and grisly."



The gruesome murder of church worker Christine Silawan is cruel, unnatural, and grisly in the extreme.

This is perhaps the most terrible killing of an individual that has occurred in the Philippines, a country that has seen its share of reprehensible crimes, among them the RCA axe murder of five security guards in 1963 and the still unsolved Lucila Lalu murder and dismemberment case of 1967.

Silawan’s murder is probably the first that exhibits relentless maniacal fury. Her body bore 30 stab wounds, likely inflicted in a frenzy. Most horrifying was the adept removal of some body parts, recalling the Jack the Ripper serial murders of 1888.

A one million peso reward has been put up for the capture of Silawan’s murderer. The police say they have suspects in mind. The public is eager for a speedy solution to the case, but is also sharing the crime scene photos and making memes, a macabre activity. Focus must be on obtaining justice for Silawan and peace of mind for her family.

Some people are calling for the resurrection of the death penalty, abolished during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when in June 2006 she signed Republic Act No. 9346.

The law’s Section 1 is clear and unequivocal: “The imposition of the penalty of death is hereby prohibited.” “In lieu of the death penalty,” RA 9346 imposes the penalties of reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment.

The law repealed all death-penalty related laws including RA 8177, the ‘Act Designating Death by Lethal Injection’ that was passed in 1996 during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos, and implemented during the administration of Joseph Estrada in 1999, starting with the execution of rapist Leo Echegaray.

In September 2006, Arroyo signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which “commits members to the abolition of the death penalty within their borders.”

When President Rodrigo Duterte was campaigning in 2016, he proposed the revival of the death penalty. In December 2016 the House of Representatives approved a draft capital punishment bill.

This prompted a rebuke from United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Ra’ad Al Hussien, who wrote an open letter to both the House and the Senate saying "International law does not permit a State that has ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to denounce it or withdraw from it.”

He added that because there is no denunciation clause in the protocol, this “[guarantees] the permanent non-reintroduction of the death penalty by States that ratified the Protocol.”

In short, given these laws, how can the death penalty be brought back, unless the government withdraws from the Second Optional Protocol and lawmakers repeal RA 9346? The latter could be unlikely because Arroyo, who as president was against the death penalty, is now the Speaker of the House.

I conducted an informal poll and 90 percent of my respondents were all for death for Silawan’s killers and those who commit similar heinous crimes. They were enraged. “An eye for an eye!” “I-torture sila bago ibitay!”

However, all my respondents expressed skepticism about how the punishment would be imposed. 

Foremost among their concerns was selective justice. “Baka di ma-apply sa lahat,” one said. “Kung mahirap, bitay agad. Kung mayaman, magbayad lang sila, okay na.”

Said another, “Walang pambayad ang mahihirap sa magaling na abugado—lamang sa kanila ang may kaya.”

A lawyer remarked, “The problem is the enforcement of the law because our justice system is flawed. Kaya mas mabuti nang palayain ang may sala kaysa mapatay ang inosente,” because an execution is something that cannot be reversed.

The police are already carrying out their own kind of ‘death sentence’— tokhang—without the benefit of due process. With the restoration of a death penalty law under the current social and political climate, miscarriages of justice are guaranteed to occur, with blame for a crime laid haphazardly in order to deliver results, with the poor being the obvious scapegoats.

Moreover, capital punishment has not successfully deterred heinous crimes. There will always be someone wicked and evil enough to perpetrate ghastly and disturbing outrages against their fellow humans. 


“Always the innocent are the first victims, so it has been for ages past, so it is now.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Christine Silawan , Rodrigo Duterte , United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights , Ra’ad Al Hussien
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