DUE to insufficient evidence, the Makati City Prosecutors Office yesterday ordered the release of the three suspects taken into custody and charged by the Makati police over the death of flight attendant Christine Dacera in a Makati hotel last January 1.
The three – John Pascual Dela Serna III, 27; Rommel Daluro Galido, 29; and John Paul Reyes Halili, 25 – were charged for the crime of rape with homicide last Monday.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, tapped the National Bureau of Investigation to assist the Makati police in probing the case, a day after the PNP declared the alleged rape-slay of Decera as having been solved. The PNP has been under fire from various critics and the public, which claimed the PNP has bungled the investigation.
The resolution signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Joan Bolina-Santillan and approved by City Prosecutor Dindo Venturanza also ordered the conduct of a preliminary investigation to determine additional facts on the case – whether Dacera was raped and/or killed, and, if yes, the true identities of the persons responsible, and the actual cause of death.
Dacera was found dead in the bathtub of a Makati hotel room on January 1 hours after spending New Year’s eve partying with her friends.
Last Tuesday, PNP chief Debold Sinas declared the case solved with three of the suspects in police custody and charged before the Makati city prosecutors. The PNP said nine other suspects are still at large.
“The NBI forensic medicine team is presently providing assistance to and coordinating with the PNP Makati SOCO to determine the true cause of death of Christine Dacera,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra said the NBI will also conduct a second autopsy on Dacera’s body.
“I was so informed by the OIC Chief,” Guevarra said, referring to NBI officer in charge Eric Distor.
“At this point, the pieces of evidence submitted so far are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped. And, if sexual assault or rape was committed, who is/are the person/persons responsible?” the three-page resolution said.
It added there was insufficient evidence to prove the exact cause of death of Dacera, adding the police have yet to submit the results of the DNA analysis, toxicology, chemical analysis and other examination.
“Hence, the conduct of a preliminary investigation is necessary,” it added.
Earlier yesterday, Metro Manila police chief Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. yesterday said Dacera was not raped, contrary to earlier allegations by the PNP.
Danao said this was the result of an autopsy conducted by the Southern Police District crime laboratory that he received yesterday. The autopsy also reiterated that her cause of death was ruptured aortic aneurysm or massive internal bleeding.
In a press conference at Club Filipino, the family of Dacera said they want another post mortem examination because they don’t agree with the findings initially released by the police.
Atty. Brick Reyes, representative of the family of the 21-year-old Dacera, said the family does not believe the cause of death was not ruptured aortic aneurysm only.
Reyes explained that “hematoma, contusions, bruises and abrasions” should be included in the final report to indicate she was sexually assaulted. Reyes added they are also looking into a possibility that Dacera was drugged.
Despite the result of the autopsy, Danao said the case will continue to be probed unless a judge orders them to stop.
“It’s still the court that will tell us if the case will be pursued or not,” Danao said.
Danao added the Dacera family has every right to demand another autopsy.
“If they are not confident of the autopsy report or they have doubts, they get or hire someone who can be trusted to do the re-autopsy,” he said.
Guevarra clarified he is not ordering the NBI to conduct a separate probe despite the questions raised on the rape-slay angle floated by the police.
“I am not issuing a department order because my directive to the NBI is to assist the police in the investigation, particularly on the medico-legal aspect of the case, rather than to conduct a separate probe,” he explained.
Sinas on Tuesday night issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the other nine suspects in Dacera’s death but his order has been overtaken by the Makati prosecutor release order.
The nine are Gregorio Angelo de Guzman, Louie de Lima, Clark Jezreel Rapinan, Rey Englis, Mark Anthony Rosales, Jammyr Cunanan, Valentine Rosales, Ed Madrid and one Paul.
In a press briefing yesterday, Sinas said the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which he said is now aiding the Makati City in the probe, has issued subpoena to the suspects.
“If they fail to surface, CIDG will be filing direct contempt against them and apply for a warrant. Once we secure a warrant, we’ll have the reason to take them forcibly and hold them accountable,” Sinas said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo urged everyone to reserve judgment on the case of Dacera and wait for the final result of the ongoing investigation.
Panelo said if proven that a crime was committed, the administration “assures that the offenders thereof, regardless of who they are, will be dealt with in accordance with law.”
Sen. Manny Pacquiao has offered a P500,000 reward for any information that will lead to the arrest of the remaining suspects in the Dacera case.
“I am ready to give P500,000 for any information on the suspects that will give light to this case,” Pacquiao said in a statement issued yesterday. – With Victor Reyes, Noel Talacay, Jocelyn Montemayor and Christian Oineza