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PAL attendant’s death remains a mystery: Cops back to square one amid lack of proof

Metro Manila police commander Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said the toxicology analysis result is one of the key factors to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera.

Danao said he also believed that the initial evidence presented by the Makati City police to the prosecutors office stating that the 23-year-old victim was raped was still insufficient.

“I’m not really that convinced when I read the documents, but it was filed and it’s already there,” he said in a radio interview.

Danao said investigators are now focusing on forensic evidence, especially on the toxicology analysis that would help them determine the cause of Dacera’s death.

He suggested that heavy drinking combined with the use of illegal drugs at what he called a rave party could have caused Dacera to suffer an aneurysm.

On Wednesday, the Makati City prosecutors office ordered the release of the three men arrested and detained at the police station for lack of sufficient evidence against them.

The prosecutor also ordered the police to conduct further investigation saying they needed to know if Dacera was indeed raped or killed, and to identify the persons responsible, and to establish the actual cause of death.

The hearing for the preliminary investigation of the case was scheduled on Jan. 13.

Top Philippine National Police officials maintain there was no lapse on the part of the Makati City police in its investigation.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the Makati police were just eager to solve the case. Now that the case has been sent back by the prosecutor, they will have to investigate, he added.

Makati Police chief Col. Harold Depositar said the initial report of the cause of death was a ruptured aortic aneurysm, which may be caused by various factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infection, or sudden traumatic injury.

Initial investigation also showed that the victim had lacerations and sperm in her genitalia, while bruises, scratches and contusions were found on her arms and legs, indicating there was use of force.

Philippine Airlines announced that the remains of Dacera were brought home in General Santos City Thursday morning amid tight security.

“We pray for the strength of the Dacera family amidst their painful loss. One with you in the quest for truth and justice. Christine is finally carried home on PR453 from Manila to General Santos City. May you rest in peace,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

A native of General Santos, Dacera graduated cum laude with a degree in communication and media studies at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

The Palace on Thursday said the Dacera case was “obviously” not a closed case, in reaction to a statement earlier from the police.

“Obviously, because our prosecutor is still asking for evidence, the case is not yet closed,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

The lawyer for the Dacera family said rape claims in the case was not aimed at the LGBT community.

Dacera, 23, was found dead on New Year’s Day in a Makati City hotel after partying with some men the night before. One of the suspects has said the men were gay and had no reason to harm her.

Sexual orientation, however, is not one of the elements in proving the crime of rape, said Jose Ledda III, one of the Dacera family’s lawyers.

“In so far as we are concerned, the admission comes to nothing...Sexual orientation or being a member of the LGBT community is not a defense for rape. One may claim, assert or even prove that one maybe is a homosexual but one does not discount that rape cannot be committed by an individual,” he told ANC’s Headstart.

“This is also not a fight against the LGBT community, this is rather a struggle of the family to attain justice for the victim.”

The family is coordinating with state agencies in “carrying out the necessary actions to support the claims of the legal team that rape was indeed committed,” Ledda added.

It is also trying to secure additional CCTV footage inside the Makati hotel, according to the lawyer. Videos leaked in social media does not change the family’s position on the matter, he added.

The family’s position won’t change just because a document or a footage that’s supposedly related to the case was released to the public, he said.

An initial medico-legal report concluded that the cause of death was “consistent with ruptured aortic aneurysm,” but the Makati police later said it was a rape-homicide case.

The Makati City Prosecutor has since referred the case for further investigation and ordered the release of three suspects in Dacera’s death.

“It only shows that, unlike the claims of others, the justice system in the Philippines is still working. It does not weaken the case of the family at all. It merely requires the team to submit further documents to prove that there is probable cause for the crime being charged,” Ledda said.

The Department of Justice on Thursday assured the Dacera family of a swift preliminary investigation of the complaint filed against 11 people suspected of involvement in the rape-slay of the flight attendant who was found dead in a bathtub inside in a hotel in Makati City on New Year’s Day.

DOJ’s National Prosecution Service chief Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento also vowed fairness in resolving the case, saying all respondents will be afforded their rights to due process.

Malcontento admitted that the complaint filed by the PNP was premature, citing the findings of the Makati City prosecutors.

According to the Prosecutor General, the submission of the additional evidence, such as the DNA analysis report, toxicology/chemical analysis and the histopath examination report is vital to the resolution of the Dacera case.

On Wednesday, the Makati City prosecutors ordered the release from detention of the three respondents John Pascual dela Serna, Rommel Galido and John Paul Halili pending preliminary investigation.

The same complaint against the other respondents who remain at large, 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.

“At this point, the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped,” the prosecutor said.

“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.

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Thursday sought a congressional investigation into what it described as “mishandling” of the Dacera case by the police.

The group’s members, Reps. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela; Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna; France Castro of ACT Teachers; and Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan filed House Resolution 1458 directing the House committee on public order and safety to lead the congressional investigation.

They said PNP “seems to be in an apparent rush to close the case and trumpet it as a New Year accomplishment, in a bid to save the institution’s tarnished and decaying image amid a series of police brutality cases.”

In the group’s resolution, it noted that the Makati City police filed a “provisional” charge of rape with homicide against the 11 individuals who were linked to Dacera’s death even if the investigation was still ongoing.

“The PNP’s mishandling of Dacera’s case poses the biggest stumbling block to the quest for truth and justice over Dacera’s death; it should stop using the case to rehabilitate its image if justice must be really served,” the lawmakers said.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, cautioned officials to be circumspect in their pronouncements of launching a manhunt operation against suspects without any legal basis such as warrant of arrest.

As much as we all want to immediately find out the truth about Christine’s death, the commission reminds authorities to abide by their own rules and procedures to not cast any doubt in the regularity of police operations, as actions taken at the onset of the investigation play a pivotal role in the full and transparent resolution of the case. These standards must be carried out in full accordance with the rule of law while ensuring that the rights of all parties involved are respected,” spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

The CHR Commission dismissed the call to reimpose death penalty if proven that Dacera’s death resulted from sexual assault.

“While perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence must be held accountable, capital punishment would not genuinely address the problem. The lack of access to justice of victims of sexual violence and their families and the long persistence of misogyny and impunity in our society are the root causes of these violations,” De Guia said.

Topics: Vicente Danao Jr , Department of Justice , Christine Angelica Dacera , Philippine Airlines , Makati City
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