Two days after Makati police chief Col. Harold Depositar declared the case “closed” with the filing of charges for rape with homicide, Assistant City Prosecutor Joan Bolina-Santillan ordered the release of three men arrested in connection with the death of flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera.
Santillan cited the lack of evidence to pin down John Pascual dela Serna, Rommel Galido and John Paul Halili. The chief of the National Capital Region Police Office himself, Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said the filing of the “provisional” criminal case against 11 men who were last seen with Dacera was premature.
Danao and Santillan had the same comment: the results of the DNA analysis that might establish rape as well as toxicology and tissue examinations on Dacera were not yet out – meaning there is still no conclusive evidence that she was killed. The initial autopsy said she died of aortic aneurysm.
Dacera’s body was immediately sent for embalming by police medico-legal officer Maj. Michael Nick Sarmiento, without the approval of her family. Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun said this made it impossible to determine any rape. The Dacera family has filed a complaint against Sarmiento, and said there is information that there were more than 11 men present at the New Year’s Eve party.
All 11 men named in the case have denied the rape with homicide, stressing that they are homosexuals. Sexual orientation does not necessarily preclude the rape, which is an act not only of lust but also violence and humiliation of the victim. The best way to determine the truth, however, is for the 11 to face probers and narrate what they have been telling mass media. It will speed up the search for justice of Dacera’s grieving relatives.
This case highlights the weakness of police criminal investigation in this country, with a propensity for short cuts and lack of knowledge about forensic procedures. The chief of the Philippine National Police himself had backed Depositar’s pronouncement that the case was closed, and had warned the eight suspects who were not apprehended to surrender or be regarded as wanted persons. Raquel Fortun had an accurate description: this is sloppy police work all around. It’s bad news for the people the PNP is sworn to protect.