Justice chief orders NBI to probe flight attendant Dacera’s death

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2021 04:38 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2021 10:39 PM

Guevarra: Makati police probe “not thorough enough”

MANILA (UPDATED) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a separate probe into the death of 23-year-old flight attendant Christine Dacera, 2 days after Makati prosecutors referred the case for further investigation.

“I have directed the NBI to conduct its own investigation of the Dacera case, as time is of the essence. The longer it takes to examine the remains of the deceased and gather pieces of other evidence, the more difficult it becomes to establish the true cause of her death and identify any person liable therefor, if a crime was indeed committed,” he told reporters in a message exchange.

Guevarra, who initially said he won’t order NBI to do its own investigation changed his mind after finding the initial probe conducted by the Makati Police wanting.

“With all due respect, the initial investigation by the Makati Police was not thorough enough, prompting the inquest prosecutors to refer the case for further investigation and release the respondents in the meantime,” he said.

“From the DOJ’s viewpoint, the case build-up will be faster if the NBI acts independently. Note that the preliminary investigation has already been set on January 13,” he added.

The NBI on Thursday examined the hotel rooms where Dacera and her companions stayed on New Year’s Eve.

“The NBI would like to have in its possession the complete forensic test results before it makes known its autopsy findings,” Guevarra said, declining inquiries from the media on the initial results of the NBI’s probe.

Dacera was found unconscious and without pulse on a bathtub in a hotel in Makati at 12:30 pm on January 1 after a night of partying with 11 men.

Her friends tried to revive her and brought her to the Makati Medical Center where she was declared dead on arrival.

An initial medico-legal report dated January 3 prepared by medico-legal officer Police Major Michael Nick Sarmiento concluded that the cause of death was “consistent with ruptured aortic aneurysm.”

The autopsy was conducted at 9 am on January 2, the day after Dacera was found dead.

By January 4, police said Dacera’s case was one of rape and murder, with Makati Police filing a rape-homicide complaint with the Makati prosecutors’ office, which it described as “provisional” pending additional evidence.

Makati Police Chief Col. Harold Depositar told the Philippine Daily Inquirer the victim had “lacerations and sperm in her genitalia.”

The PNP also came out with a press release claiming the case was already solved with 3 of the alleged suspects already in police custody with 9 others at large. They named the suspects.

But on January 5, copies of the January 3 medico-legal report surfaced online which seemingly contradicted police’s claims of rape.

Police have drawn criticism for what observers described as the sloppy probe of Dacera's death.

Makati prosecutors on Wednesday said the evidence presented by the police were “insufficient” to establish that Dacera was sexually assaulted or raped and by whom, or to prove the exact cause of her death.

It ordered the release of 3 respondents in custody and the conduct of a preliminary investigation to allow both sides to present more evidence.

Explaining the basis of the Makati prosecutors’ resolution, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento told CNN Philippines Thursday the evidence the police presented were “premature.”

He also refuted Depositar’s claim there was semen found on the body of Dacera.

“‘Yung sinasabi sa medico-legal, walang sinasabing ganyan. That’s why the prosecutor recommended for investigation to determine in the future kung meron or wala at all. But based on the medico-legal, there’s no such thing na nagsasabi na may semen sa private part ng deceased,” he said.

Even NCRPO chief Police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao also expressed doubt as to whether the police has sufficient bases to file provisional complaint of rape with homicide against the suspects, calling it “medyo hilaw.”

Guevarra also ruled out Friday applying for precuationary hold departure orders for now against those tagged in Dacera’s death.

“Not at this time. Prosecutors apply for PHDO when, based on the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation, probable cause that a crime has been committed is more or less established, and it is likely that the respondent(s) will flee from the country before the criminal information is filed in court,” he explained.

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