‘Dacera case probe just starting’

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    PROSECUTOR General Benedicto Malcontento yesterday said that work on the case of flight attendant Christine Dacera, who was found dead inside a hotel room in Makati last January 1, is just starting for prosecutors who have set out to find answers to questions related to her death.

    Malcontento, who is the head of the National Prosecution Service, issued this statement a day after the Makati City Prosecutors Office ordered the release of three suspects taken into custody by the police last Monday.

    Assistant City Prosecutor Joan Bolina Santillan has directed the police to produce more evidence that will establish if Dacera was sexually abused and killed.

    The preliminary investigation of the case starts January 13.

    Dacera was found unconscious inside the bathroom of a hotel room in Makati City after celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends. She was declared dead after being brought to a hospital, with police saying she died of ruptured aortic aneurysm or massive internal bleeding.

    “Just to be clear about this, we are not dismissing the case. We are just converting this into a regular preliminary investigation. We are just starting,” Malcontento said in a television interview.

    He assured the Dacera family of a “swift investigation,” adding that justice will be given them. He also said the 11 respondents will be given a chance to defend themselves during the preliminary investigation.

    He said the evidence presented by the police during the inquest of the three arrested – John Pascual Dela Serna III, Rommel Galido and John Paul Halili – was insufficient.

    “If it is sufficient, we could have dismissed it outright or decided to file the case. We cannot file murder, rape, homicide or rape with homicide with the existing evidence presented so far by the PNP,” Malcontento explained.

    He said the police have submitted with their complaint Dacera’s death certificate and medico-legal report but added more are needed, such as the toxicology and DNA test results.

    He added there was no evidence so far that semen has been found on the body of the 23-year-old flight stewardess.

    The PNP admitted the 72-hour ultimatum issued by PNP chief Debold Sinas last Tuesday for the suspects in the Dacera case has been rendered moot by the order issued by the Makati Prosecutors Office.

    PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said, however, that the other suspects may still surface and give their side on the ongoing investigation.

    “The 72-hour (ultimatum) may still have (a) bearing for the other suspects to come out.

    This is for their own benefit if they want their names cleared right away,” Usana said.

    Usana added the PNP is not considering the resolution of the Makati Prosecutors Office as a setback, saying this is normal.

    “People need to understand that we have the criminal justice system machinery working hand in hand. Our working relationship with the prosecutors has gone a long, long way in running after offenders of law facing crime cases in court,” he said.

    President Duterte assured the truth would come out and justice would be accorded to the family of Dacera, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

    Roque said the administration would devote its effort and a commitment, similar to what it accorded the Maguindanao massacre, to the case of Dacera.

    “The promise of the President is that justice would be accorded to the Dacera family. Truth will come out under the President’s administration because he is a lawyer and former fiscal, and he will not allow the criminal to go unpunished,” Roque said. – With Victor Reyes and Jocelyn Montemayor