Otso Diretso: Don’t use Silawan rape-slay to push for death penalty

Mara Cepeda
Otso Diretso: Don’t use Silawan rape-slay to push for death penalty
While justice must be served, opposition candidates say the case of 16-year-old Christine Lee Silawan should not be used to drum up support for the death penalty

CEBU, Philippines – Otso Diretso candidates condemned the rape and gruesome murder of Cebuano teen Christine Lee Silawan, but they believe her case cannot be used to justify the reimposition of the death penalty in the Philippines.

The opposition senatorial candidates were asked by reporters on Monday, March 25, for their reaction after the 17-year-old suspect in the case was released on the same day as Silawan’s burial on Saturday, March 23.

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay first extended his condolences to the family of 16-year-old Silawan, who was found naked from the waist down, her face skinned to the bone, in a vacant lot in Barangay Bangkal on March 11.

“Nagugulat din kami at nababahala din kami doon sa pagmanipula ng emosyon ng mga tao para isulong na naman ‘yung death penalty. Sa tingin ko, ‘yung desisyon na i-release ‘yung sinampahan ng kaso, reflection ‘yun no’ng malaking problema ng ating hustisya,” said Hilbay.

(We’re surprised and worried that the people’s emotions are being manipulated to push for the death penalty. I think the decision to release the suspect who was charged is a reflection of the huge problem in our judicial system.)

Peace and women’s rights advocate Samira Gutoc also stood firm that capital punishment must not be revived in the Philippines. (READ: ‘No to death penalty, not even for terrorists’ – Senate candidate Gutoc)

“As a woman po, I feel very deeply moved. To the Silawan family, sino ba naman ang ayaw na magkaroon ng hustisya?… Napakaraming Muslim ang nagalit sa akin that I did not want death penalty. Ang aking issue po [ay] hustisya, due process. Hanapin, gamitin ang CCTV,” said Gutoc.

(As a woman, I feel very deeply moved. To the Silawan family, who would not want justice?… Many Muslims became angry at me that I did not want death penalty. My issue is justice, due process. Look for, use the CCTV.)

The Otso Diretso bets’ views are contrary to that of administration candidate and former police chief Bato dela Rosa, who earlier said Silawan’s rape-slay is one example of a crime for which the only appropriate punishment is death by hanging.

Strong evidence needed

Otso Diretso senatorial candidates Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada, meanwhile, said law enforcement authorities must ensure the evidence-gathering in Silawan’s murder is airtight.

“‘Yung mga testigo kasi, puwedeng takutin ‘yan. Puwedeng ‘yung mga supposed suspect, puwedeng kumuha ng confession na ‘di naman boluntaryo. Pero ‘yung physical evidence does not lie. Sana naman ay ginawa ‘yan ng ating law enforcement at magamit din nila ‘yung tinatawag natin na forensic evidence dahil ‘yun ang talagang magpapatunay kung sino ang may gawa-gawa niyan,” said human rights lawyer Diokno.

(Witnesses can be intimidated. Supposed suspects can be forced to confess. But physical evidence does not lie. So I hope our law enforcement agencies did that, and I hope they would also make use of forensic evidence, because it would prove who was really behind this.)

Tañada shared the same sentiments, saying proper police work is crucial in bringing justice to Silawan’s family.

“Police work is very, very important. The case will be able to succeed if police work and gathering of evidence is done properly. And a case will also fall and will be dismissed if the police do not do their work properly,” said the lawyer-turned-former Quezon congressman.

Silawan’s gruesome killing shocked the entire nation, with President Rodrigo Duterte himself condemning the perpetrators. – Rappler.com


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.