What could’ve driven patient to commit crime?

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Friday, July 25, 2014

WILFREDO Sabonsolin hogged the headlines because he shot Dr. Cris Cecil Abbu dead inside the latter’s clinic in a private hospital in Cebu City, before turning the gun on himself last Thursday morning.

The patient sat on a wheelchair when he committed the crime. Homicide investigators said it’s possible that depression drove Sabonsolin to shoot his surgeon.

Psychiatrist Dr. Rene Obra said some persons with disabilities tend to suffer from depression, which affects their mental stability.


He theorized that the shooting happened because Sabonsolin might have blamed Abbu for his condition.

“He might have been suffering from depression because he was desperate and hopeless.

He might have thought that he cannot walk and be productive again,” said Obra in Cebuano over radio dyHP.

The shooting of Abbu recalls another incident last year involving Canadian John Pope, who killed pediatric surgeon Dr. Reynold Rafols and lawyer Jubian Achas inside a courtroom at the Palace of Justice.

Crime of passion

Obra described Abbu’s killing as a crime of passion because Sabonsolin possibly did it out of rage, for not getting totally cured of his illness.

“There are some persons who, at the height of their anger, can do something unexpected,” he said.

Quoting the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Obra said a person with terminal illness goes through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Obra said there are people who could not understand why he was inflicted with an illness; this results in the person being mad at himself, his doctor, people around him, or God.

At some point, the person would think of ways of extending his life, like setting conditions to do something good if he is healed from his illness.

Depression, he said, reaches its abnormal condition when the ill person would no longer socialize and starts entertaining suicidal thoughts.

Obra said acceptance happens when the person surrenders the thought of being healed from his illness and knows that he is going to die.

Hazards of the job

It was also likely that Sabonsolin’s job as a former seafarer affected his demeanor.

University of the Visayas (UV) Maritime College dean Capt. Emerico Gepilano said seafarers often grapple with emotional and psychological pain because they are alone and away from their comfort zone-their family.

“Imagine you are in the ship and you are surrounded only by water?” he said in Cebuano. “If there is a problem in your family and you are not there, you feel helpless because you can’t do anything.”

Problems with marriage and wayward children are also the common causes of distress among seafarers, he said.

He said he has encountered fellow Filipino seafarers who attempted suicide or ran amok aboard ships upon learning that their wives were having illicit affairs back home.

Others, he said, fell into despair when they knew their children indulged in vices.


In 1989, Gepilano started to work as a seafarer until he became a captain.

During those times, he said he always communicated with his family.

“When you are away, it cannot be avoided to long for your family. Those who are weak will be distressed for sure, especially if the ship embarks on a long voyage and there is no communication line with the family,” he said in Cebuano.

Seeing only the ocean for days can also affect a seafarer’s mind, he said.

Gepilano himself experienced not seeing any land form for 15 days.

The good thing, he said, was that they can use wireless Internet connection and satellite phones to communicate with their families.


To relax, Gepilano said he often gathered his men for sing-along sessions. They don’t drink any alcoholic beverage because the company prohibits it.

Computer games also help seafarers to relax from the rigors of their job in the ship.

Before working for a shipping firm, Gepilano said seafarers are subjected to rigid medical, physical, and psychological tests to check their stability.

A medical test is also conducted a day after a seafarer has return to the country, he said.

Gepilano became UV’s Maritime College dean after his contract ended last February.

To prepare the maritime students for their job, Gepilano said the teachers impart their experiences as seafarers.

The faculty also teaches the risks of the job, including the possibility of a pirate attack.

He also said that he is glad with the ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006, of which the Philippines is a signatory, which took effect last year.

One of MLC’s provisions is that the longest contract term a shipping firm can give to a seafarer is nine months, he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 26, 2014.

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