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Per 100,000 people, the country who has the highest murder rate in Southeast Asia, Philippines, has a murder rate of 9.84 for 9,784 recorded cases according to reports from the year 2014. And if one would ever wonder, how many of these cases can actually be considered serial murders? These kinds of murders are committed by serial killers, someone who has committed murder three or more times with a cooling-off period from which broken families, inherent disorders, and childhood trauma might have caused such a disposition to abnormally gratify his psychological needs. In this age, using the term “serial killer” has become familiar with different media forms tackling it. But linking it with actual crimes are more often done internationally than it is in the Philippines.
The country does not believe in serial murderers since some justify that most of the goals of the people in the country is to get ahead in life and escape poverty. Given that the people in the country are mostly family-oriented, they would prioritize relationships and will do what it takes to earn money, while not risking getting caught doing such acts. Nonetheless, the paper aims to prove that serial murderers may actually roam around the country’s streets, as connections will be made on the factors that could actually be conducive to their psychotic behavior and are present in the country’s environment.
A term coined by the FBI in the 1970s, a ‘serial killer’ is someone who has committed three or more murders as a baseline definition. The murders from which ample evidence patterns to a common perpetrator, need to be committed at different times and locations with an indefinite time period between the killings. The presence of cooling periods between such horrendous activities is what differentiates serial murderers from other killers. There are also types from where a serial killer could be distinguished, and some of them are: the visionary motive type who display signs of psychosis who think that they are compelled to murder because an entity ordered them to do so (God-mandated or Devil-mandated); the mission-oriented type who displays no signs of psychosis but believe that they need to rid the world of immoral or unworthy people like prostitutes, homosexuals, and such; the power or control type whose objective is to assert dominance over their victims and often sexually abuses them for the feeling of control and not for sexual gratification; and the hedonistic type who derives pleasure from killing, either to satiate their need for lust, comfort or thrill.
Studies (Dalal, et.al, 2009; Barber, 2016) observed what the lives of serial killers were like when they were children, and most of them point to poor relationships with their families. A chaotic home or a broken family negatively influences the psychological well-being of a child. Neglect from the parents were also noted to have adverse effects on their behavior or thinking. It was also common for the serial killers to come from a family that had experienced divorce, separation, or the lack of a parent. In a psychological view, insufficient attention and physical touch given to a child in his infancy period would significantly affect the child’s emotional development. This disruption of their formative period could be damaging in the long term. Another common link among most serial killers was that they were brought up by their mothers, either as a single parent or as the dominant figure between the couple. Their upbringing could have been “controlling, overprotective, physically and emotionally abusive” (The Psychology of a Serial Killer, n.d.) which also negatively develops their psychological behavior. Hatred towards their mothers were also found to encompass most serial killers as the reason or motive for their murders.
Factors present in the Philippines may contribute to this ongoing phenomenon of having broken families. Due to poverty, parents often consider going abroad to work as OFWs. This in turn, affects the development of the children as one or two important figures in their life would be missing as they grow up. And due to some instances such as time constraints and temptations from being away or working abroad, parents would separate. This often leads to the neglect or rejection by these important figures in the children’s life, which adversely affects their development in coping mechanisms and behavior.
Moving on, evidence from various profiles show that serial killers do not necessarily have an unhealthy relationship with their family, rather they were affected by their genes. An abnormality in the hereditary makeup or brain structure, is observed to adversely impact the children’s behavior; in turn, could account for their turning into a serial killer. Serial killers exhibit antisocial personality disorders such as sociopathy or psychopathy, which are not considered mental illnesses, but may already be present in their genes and are more likely to be exhibited due to the arising of certain factors. People who are diagnosed with the aforementioned disorders may manifest a blatant disregard for laws, social ethics, and respect for others’ rights. They also have a tendency to display violent behavior, as they fail to feel any remorse or guilt. These characteristics have a direct correlation to a serial killer’s nature of being a callous and exploitative individual with blunted emotions and impulsive inclinations.
A concerning topic that should be discussed is the Philippines’ disregard on mental health before, which is shown by the common opinion that illnesses such as depression and anxiety are “sakit pangmayaman” or afflictions only felt by those who are well off in life. This then leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms for children when dealing with stress and other problems. Most will disregard what they are truly feeling as they have yet so much to do and they have no time for such trivial things. The stigma concerning these mental health illnesses also hinder those struggling to be open about what they are experiencing so as to avoid being made fun of or looked down on. This leads to detrimental effects on their mental health, and it may lead to unwanted disorders. However, a sound proposal has been made by the government in which the Philippines now has the Mental Health Act of 2017. This act is implemented to raise awareness on these mental problems and provide high quality care for those who are afflicted with such conditions, alleviating the current situation and previous mindset of some Filipinos.
Another factor which may induce some detrimental consequences on the psychological well-being of a person is trauma, which can be related to the aforementioned factor of broken families. Previous studies have found a link between serial killers and childhood abuse, including physical, mental and sexual. They were often abused by a near and dear family member when they were young which may have resulted to things such as bedwetting, isolation, introversion. Also, another factor to consider is the negligence of parents who are caught up with drinking problems or substance abuse, leading to the lowering of self-esteem of the child and leaving him feeling powerless and inadequate as an adult. Children who are often mistreated creates a sort of an alternative reality where they can take control and have power, and as they reach adulthood, they would continue doing so to attain those feelings or experiences that they missed out when they were young.. Studies (The Psychology of a Serial Killer, n.d.; Dalal, et.al, 2009) have also shown that trauma leading to isolation like bullying, evokes them to harbor aggressive fantasies. These secret fantasies develop into detailed plans on how and who they would kill.
The Philippines today is marked with plenty extrajudicial killings concerning the war against drugs, whose victims are often those in poverty. Communities have been raided and ‘suspicious’ men were taken from their homes, and the police were not as trusted as they were before. Children were not spared from witnessing, or even experiencing, these unconstitutional killings. Aside from the possibilities of wanting to avenge their families or friends, this could also highly induce childhood trauma. Also, when groups of people have lives that are generally recognized to have no value, then it would be natural for them to resolve to murder. This is tagged as a socio-cultural factor that creates serial killers (Dala, et. al, 2009). It could be contextualized to the victims of Tokhang as they are unrecognized by the state to be treated fairly. Witnesses or close relations to those murdered would experience trauma, and the feeling that they are not seen as equal beneficiaries of the law. In turn, the making of a serial killer could start either to release their anger, a form of revolt, or to avenge. With victims that are often the poor, crimes done to them do not garner as much attention as needed; this then results to possible unchecked sequences in murders (Barber, 2016).
A crime of this caliber is usually solved through comprehensive detective work, the use of deduction, logic, and science, the accumulation of clues and pieces of evidence, and a series of trial and error. International crime work boasts of how the crime bureau is funded by the government, as they enjoy a reliable system backed up with state-of-the-art-databases. Meanwhile, given the system the country has, missing persons are never expected to be found after a period of time, catching a prime suspect takes years to accomplish, and much more. The police task force isn’t that efficient, their equipment are decades past their manufacturing date, the justice system is all about pleasing the social circle of the powerful and the wealthy, and overall, the system does not look out for the good of the people. Also, when inefficient crime force is faced with serial killers whose cooling periods are extremely long, then it is more likely for them to not notice the patterns nor arrest the murderers (Barber, 2016).
This is a country where all the effort put into solving the crime will all be for nothing given the evidences. To add more, the situation in the Philippines is bleak, in which such an environment can create detrimental motivations to the creation of serial killers. Broken families and other factors are present in the country for instance, the Tokhang, the large percent of OFW’s, or the perpetuation of poverty. These are significantly influential to the psychological behavior and mechanisms of children. The gathered information from legitimate sources and studies points to different events or factors that are also present in the Philippines. The psychology and behavior of serial killers should move the police and the citizens to stop discounting the possibility of their presence in the country. As F.H. Batacan disproved the notion of “there are no serial killers in the Philippines” in her novel “Smaller and Smaller Circles,” so does this paper enlighten the often overlooked likelihood of their existence in the country.
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