THREE suspects linked in the controversial death of Filipina flight attendant Christine Dacera were released on Wednesday, January 6, following the order of the Makati City prosecutor’s office.
“After a thorough evaluation of the facts and evidence presented during inquest proceedings, the Office of the City Prosecutor, Makati City resolved to refer the case for further investigation and to release the arrested persons from detention,” said Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento in a statement.
John Pascual Dela Serna III, Rommel Galido, and John Paul Halili, who were arrested on Monday, January 4, left detention at the Makati City police department upon order.
Malcontento said further investigation is needed to determine the following:
1. Whether Christine Angelica F. Dacera was raped and/or killed, and if yes, the identities of the persons responsible therefor, and;
2. Whether the death was by reason or on the occasion of rape or for other reasons – the actual cause of death.
Dacera, 23, was found unconscious in an empty bathtub of a hotel in Makati City on January 1 after a New Year’s Eve party with friends. She was rushed to Makati Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier filed a provisional charge of rape with homicide against the arrested suspects due to the bruises, lacerations, and fluids found on Dacera’s body. However, the Makati prosecutor’s office pointed out that there was not enough evidence to establish if Dacera was sexually assaulted or raped.
“After a thorough examination of the evidence presented on inquest, this Office finds that there are certain matters that need to be clarified to determine the participation and culpability of each respondent for the alleged rape and killing of [Dacera],” the resolution read.
“At this point, the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped. And, if sexual assault/rape was committed, who is/are the person/s responsible?” it added.
The Makati prosecutor’s office also noted that Dacera’s cause of death remains unclear.
An initial autopsy report said the cause of death was a ruptured aortic aneurysm, which may be caused by several factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infection, or sudden traumatic injury.
“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,” the prosecution said.
The Prosecutor General also said the complaint against eight other suspects linked in the case, and who are still at large, will be under further investigation: Gregorio Angelo de Guzman, Clark Jezreel Rapinan, Valentine Rosales, Mark Anthony Rosales, Rey Englis, Louie de Lima, Jammyr Cunanan, and a certain Ed Madrid.
The investigation will be conducted on January 13.
PNP Chief Gen. Debold Sina, for his part, gave the suspects at large 72 hours to surrender, threatening to “hunt them down.”
Earlier, the police considered the case as “solved” as they have identified the “suspects” in Dacera’s death.
Violation of due process
Several groups demanded the PNP to be thorough and transparent after it said Dacera’s case was already “solved” despite incomplete information on the case.
“By concluding that a case is already solved without providing clear evidence and being able to take into custody all persons of interest is a gross violation of due process and is a further injustice to Christine’s death,” said Kasama Ka sa Paglikha ng Arte at Literatura Para sa Bayan (KALikha).
According to the group, it is the PNP’s burden “to prove the facts of the case and be held accountable for prematurely releasing a report that is incomplete and inconclusive.”
“We demand the PNP to be sensitive and give respect to the grieving family as they handle and release further information regarding the case,” KALikha said.
University of the Philippines Los Baños Babaylan likewise demanded for a thorough investigation of the case.
“Ang kasong ito ay hindi dapat tuldukan at markahan bilang isang ‘solved’ case hanggat hindi pa natatapos ang proseso ng imbestigasyon at hindi pa napatutunayan ang mga tunay na nasa likod ng krimen (This case should not be closed and marked as a “solved” case until the process of the investigation is not over and the truth behind the crime is not uncovered),” the group said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a Palace official urged the public to wait for results of the investigation before making assumptions.
“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,” said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
“Should there be evidence that a crime was committed, then this administration assures that the offenders thereof, regardless of who they are, will be dealt with in accordance with law that justice may be served,” he added.