The three men arrested and detained in connection with the rape and killing of Philippine Airlines flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera were ordered released Wednesday.
The release order for John Pascual Dela Serna III, 27; Rommel Daluro Galido, 29; and John Paul Reyes Halili, 25, came after the Makati City prosecutor referred the case for further investigation, saying they needed to know if Dacera, 23, was indeed raped or killed, and to identify the persons responsible, and to establish the actual cause of death.
Police arrested the three suspects hours after Dacera was pronounced dead on arrival at the Makati Medical Center following a private New Year’s Eve party at the City Garden Hotel in Barangay Poblacion. Police said the cause of death was a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
The prosecutor said the complaint against eight others, namely, Gregorio Angelo Rafael De Guzman, Clark Rapinan, Valentine Rosales, Mark Anthony Rosales, Rey Ingles, Louie De Lima, Jammyr Cunanan, and alias Ed Madrid, will also undergo the same preliminary investigation.
Meanwhile, Senator Manny Pacquiao offered a P500,000 reward for the capture of the suspects responsible for what the police earlier described as “rape-slay case.”
The lawmaker said he personally knows the victim’s family since they are also from General Santos City.
Philippine National Police (PNP) director Debold Sinas stood pat on the initial findings that Dacera was raped, citing her bruises, lacerations, and semen in her genitals.
But the police refused to show the official autopsy and medico-legal findings to substantiate their claim, saying the documents were already submitted to the Makati Prosecutor’s Office.
The PNP chief urged the public to refrain from speculating on social media on what really transpired the night or hours before Dacera was found unconscious in the bathtub of the hotel room.
“If the report didn’t come from us, we cannot vouch that,” said Sinas when he was asked about the autopsy report circulating on the internet.
The Makati City police earlier stated that the victim had lacerations and sperm in her genitalia, while bruises, scratches and contusions were found on her arms and legs, indicating that force was used.
Sinas said some of the persons under investigation have sent surrender feelers to the police.
“We have come to realize that too many (persons) were involved. We have to pressure them. If the suspects do not show up, the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) will cite them for contempt,” he said.
Sinas assured Dacera’s family that the PNP will not let go of the case.
Former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casino said the PNP made a statement prematurely when it said the case was already solved with the mere identification of several persons of interest. With Rio N. Araja
“The police sounded as if they were positive this was a rape slay case and had already identified the culprits and arrested some of them. It was all guilt by circumstance, without benefit of a thorough investigation,” he said.
“If there was anyone who should have been prudent with information and conclusions, it should have been the police. But this is not just in the Dacera case. In so many instances, cops jump to conclusions to absolve themselves or make themselves look good,” Casino added.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also said the case cannot be considered “solved” until all the perpetrators had been held to account.
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the Makati City prosecutor subjected the case to a preliminary investigation because certain matters needed to be clarified to determine the participation and culpability of each of the respondents.
“At this point, the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped,” the resolution read.
“In the same manner, the evidence is also insufficient to prove the exact cause of death of the deceased. No evidence medically or scientifically was presented to prove that the cause of death or the rupture of aortic aneurysm was by reason of the alleged rape,” it said.
If it was a homicide, the prosecutor added, the persons responsible have yet to be ascertained through evidence.
The prosecutor noted that the Makati City police has yet to submit the results of the DNA analysis, toxicology or chemical analysis and histopathology examination.
The hearing for the preliminary investigation of the case was set ofor Jan. 13, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo urged the public not to jump to conclusions.
“It is best that we await the final result of a thorough investigation by our law enforcement authorities. The autopsy report on the deceased is a guide to determine the cause of death,” he said.
He added that once there is evidence, suspects will be prosecuted.
“Since the investigation on Christine’s death is on-going, we advise those who are concerned with the case to reserve their judgements until all the facts are in,” he said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be working closely with the police in connection with Dacera’s case.
“The forensic medicine team is providing assistance to the Makati police to determine the real cause of death of flight attendant Christine Dacera,” Guevarra told journalists.
In a separate statement, PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the National Capital Region Police Office will now be in charge of providing updates on Dacera’s cases.
Gregorio de Guzman, one of the 11 suspects in the Dacera case, said everybody loved and “cherished” Dacera, and that everyone around her at the time was a member of the LGBT community.
“Every one of them was gay,” he told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, speaking in Filipino. “My impression of her is she likes to hang out with us, LGBT members. She’s comfortable with us. The entire time she was really comfortable with every one of us.”
De Guzman also contested the statement attributed to the Makati police chief that “gays are still men, especially if they’re intoxicated.”
“For me, I’ve never had sexual relations with a woman. I’ve never been aroused by a woman. Always a man. Many can testify to that,” De Guzman said.
De Guzman, son of singer Claire dela Fuente, earlier said he was just getting to know Dacera on that fateful New Year’s eve celebration. -- With Rio N. Araja and PNA
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