Friends involved in Dacera case look back on tough year 2
From left: Gigo de Guzman, JP dela Serna III, Rommel Galido, Valentine Rosales, and Clark Rapinan. Screengrabs from The Boy Abunda Talk Channel
Culture

How are they now: Friends embroiled in Christine Dacera case on the year that changed their lives

Eight months after their names were cleared of rape and homicide charges, Gigo de Guzman and company still talk of loss, trauma and regret
RHIA GRANA | Jan 08 2022

It was a year ago when the public was introduced to the world of Filipina flight attendant Christine Dacera and her circle of friends. In the first few months of 2021, the Filipino public was deeply immersed in the stories of each personality involved, as well as the events that unfolded after Dacera’s controversial death January 1, 2021.

It will be remembered that Christine and her friends celebrated New Year's Eve at the City Garden Grand Hotel in Makati City on December 31, 2020 before she was found unconscious the following day. Autopsy report showed Christine died of ruptured aortic aneurysm. 

Flight attendant Christine Dacera
The defendants' lawyer Atty. Teresita Marbibi said the Christine Dacera case is still ongoing as there is still an appeal at the Department of Justice. Christine's photo from her Instagram page

A year after the fateful incident, how are the men initially implicated in the rape and homicide case doing?

“I’m doing my best to be okay,” Gigo de Guzman told Boy Abunda in his YouTube channel recently. “I will not lie and say that everything is good but I’m just taking it one step at a time.” 

De Guzman appeared with John Pascual “JP” dela Serna III, Clark Rapinan, Valentine Rosales, and Rommel Galido in the TV host’s online program to look back on the year that was: the struggles they had to deal with, their biggest regrets, and the lessons they learned throughout the ordeal.

Of the five, it seems De Guzman had suffered the most, with the stresses of the case and the media circus followed by the death of his mother, the singer and businesswoman Claire Dela Fuente, in March. And to think he was only in the New Year’s Eve party because he was a friend of one of Christine’s barkada

“I lost not only my mom. Financially, me and my brother are not well off anymore,” he told Abunda. The chef said he had not been successful in his many job applications, so he was thankful a friend finally offered employment. De Guzman’s restaurant had to close shop because of the pandemic lockdowns and he was also diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure—for which he spends P10,000 a month for medication. 

De Guzman said he and his brother have so much debt to pay off because of investments that did not push through—due to the pandemic and his mother’s passing. “Until now I can’t even build my mom a mausoleum. She still doesn’t have one,” he said. He and his sibling had already sold some of their mother’s paintings and jewelry. “We are holding on, because we have no choice,” said De Guzman.

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Meanwhile, Dela Serna said he’s taking small steps to recover from what happened, trying not to dwell on the stresses it brought to his and his family’s life. “My life must go on whatever happens,” he told Abunda. 

Dela Serna said that during their very public ordeal, he heard the most hurtful things from people he didn’t know. On social media, he and his friends have been called “rapist,” “drug addict,” “killer.”

De Guzman said not a few people told him he deserved to lose his mother. “Your mom died kasi karma mo ito,” he recalled being told online. “That I deserve it daw because mayaman daw kami. Dahil sa ginawa ko kay Christine. I’m like, ‘I tried saving her, you know. That was my intention. But it was impossible.’ And yet masasabihan pa ako na deserve mong mamatayan ng nanay.” At this point in interview, De Guzman broke into tears.

Rapinan and Galido continue to recover from what happened, while Rosales said he’s trying to start with a clean slate after his reputation was tainted by a crime he didn’t commit. If De Guzman lost a mother, Rosales lost his dad, a Taiwanese, in May. What made the loss more heartbreaking for Rosales was that he had not patched things up with his dad after publicly admitting he’s gay. Rosales was disowned by his father and was banished from the family home. He had to seek refuge in friends’ and relatives’ houses. 

Yung reaction ko noon, natatakot akong i-hug siya. Feeling ko kasi galit pa din siya sa akin. Pero nag-apologize ako sa kanya na I didn’t become honest of who I am. Kasi he thinks I betrayed him. Pinaalam ko sa kanyang straight ako when the truth is that I’m gay.”

Clark Rapinan, Rommel Galido, Valentine Rosales and Gigo De Guzman
Clark Rapinan, Rommel Galido, Valentine Rosales and Gigo De Guzman with their counsel Atty. Teresita Marbibi and singer Claire dela Fuente after the preliminary investigation held January 13, 2021 at  the Makati City Prosecutors Office. Photo by Jonathan Cellona

A few months after the media coverage played out, Rosales’ father suffered from a severe stroke that led to his death. “I apologized to him,” Rosales told Abunda. “I cried because hindi kami nakapag-ayos. The last time I spoke to him, I told him I was gay. Our last conversation was hindi maganda.”

A year later, Rommel Galido still regrets he said yes to his friend Christine’s New Year’s Eve invite. “Supposed to be nasa ibang party ako with other cabin crew. Nasa mall kami kumakain. Pero nandoon ako. Hindi mawala-wala sa akin ang sisi bakit sumunod ako doon. Bakit ako umoo kay Tin na pumunta ako dun sa New Year’s Eve na yun.”

He also regrets having stained the good name of his father, a former policeman. “Bilang isang anak ng dating pulis, masakit yun kasi maayos ang pagpapalaki ng dad ko. Never kami nagkaroon magkakapatid ng record na nagda-drugs kami o nakikipag-rambulan kami. Wala kaming ganoong record sa province namin,” says the Ilonggo flight attendant. “Ngayon lang [nagkaroon], kahit hindi naman totoo. Kahit wala naman nangyaring ganoon. Yun ang ibinabato sa amin. Bakit ba nangyari ito? Sinira ko ang pangalan ng tatay ko.”

Rapinan told Abunda he may appear okay but he’s been having difficulty coping, knowing the pain and trauma he had caused his family, especially his parents. “Feeling ko ang sama-sama ko. Bakit ba nangyari ito? Alam ko na disappointed sila sa akin. I don’t think about myself na eh. Ang paki ko lang, sila Papa,” he said, his voice breaking. “Pag nakikita kong malungkot sila. Kahit hindi kami nag-uusap, alam kong nahihirapan sila.”

If there’s a bright spot to the unfortunate turn of events they got embroiled in, it’s realizing the importance of family, especially in times of hardship. They also got to know who their real friends are. “I realized that I’m blessed with real friends,” said De Guzman. “[People’ who] never turned their backs and were the first ones to defend [me].”

The rape and homicide complaints against De Guzman, Dela Serna, Rapinan, Rosales, Galido and six others had been dismissed by the Makati Prosecutor’s Office in April 2021. But it may be that the dark cloud of Christine Dacera’s death will continue to hover around these guys for longer. Their lawyer Atty. Teresita Marbibi said the case is still ongoing as there is still an appeal at the Department of Justice. “Whoever wins, whether Dacera or them, one will appeal the case, so it might go up to the Supreme Court.”

Check out the full interview via this YouTube link.