Democracy & Disinformation

In Cebu, Dela Rosa says Silawan murder proves death penalty needed

Pia Ranada
In Cebu, Dela Rosa says Silawan murder proves death penalty needed

Though there is no proof that Christine Lee Silawan's murderer is a drug addict, Ronald Dela Rosa points to her death as a reason to impose death penalty against drug traffickers

CEBU, Philippines (UPDATED) – While campaigning in vote-rich Cebu, administration bet Ronald dela Rosa again used the gruesome murder of a Cebuano teen to drum up support for death penalty.

Dela Rosa, speaking in front of a large crowd in Mandaue City, said the rape and death of Chistine Lee Silawan is one example of a crime for which the only appropriate punishment is death by hanging.

“She went to her church to help in collection. When she went home, she can no longer be found. The next day, she was dead. She was raped and stabbed. Afterwards, the murderer wasn’t content. He skinned her face, took off her beautiful face and turned it ugly. He skinned her face. Can an ordinary criminal do that?” he told the crowd. 

Dela Rosa then insinuated that the murderer must have been under the influence of drugs, hence the reason why drug traffickers must be meted out the death penalty.

“Can a criminal under the influence of illegal drugs do that? If he wasn’t involved with drugs, he won’t be able to do that. That’s why drug traffickers have to be hanged,” he said.

“Why? Why? There won’t be a drug supplier if there is no trafficker,” added the former police chief.

But police officials have yet to conclude that Silawan’s murderer or murderers are drug addicts or had committed the crime while under the influence.

A 17-year-old boy who had supposedly known Silawan before her death is under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development as a suspect.

Another HNP candidate, Francis Tolentino, agreed that Silawan’s murderer must be killed.

Definitely the culprit there should be hanged,” he said.

Tolentino later on maintained that the suspect must still be accorded his rights to due process but that he should get the “highest punishment” possible.

Reinstating the death penalty is Dela Rosa’s number one campaign promise as senatorial candidate. President Rodrigo Duterte himself is pro-death penalty, saying it is the only way to seek retribution for heinous crimes.

Sixteen-year-old Silawan was stabbed and skinned after an afternoon spent helping out in a local church. Her murder shocked Cebu and the entire nation, with Duterte himself condemning the perpetrators. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at