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What we know so far: The death of flight attendant Christine Dacera

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 06, 2021 2:22 am Updated Jan 27, 2021 9:58 pm

The death of flight attendant Christine Angela Dacera continues to stir conversations on social media and the family’s call for justice and truth remain.

Dacera rang in the New Year with friends at the City Garden Grand Hotel in Makati City. The next day, Jan. 1, around noontime, she was found unconscious in the bathtub of their hotel room. She was then rushed to the Makati Medical Center where she was declared dead on arrival.

The Dacera family believes that there was foul play in the flight attendant’s death, an allegation that her companions, who were initially charged with rape with homicide, refuted.

On Monday night, Jan. 4, the PNP announced that it had already solved the death of Dacera, which many questioned, including National Capital Region Police Office chief Vicente Danao Jr., who does not believe the case can already be considered “solved” as only three suspects were taken into custody and nine suspects remain at large.

On Tuesday night, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas issued an ultimatum to other suspects who are allegedly involved in Dacera’s death.

“This is a fair warning, surrender within 72 hours or we will hunt you down, using force if necessary. We know who you are. Your family must turn you over to the police. Those found to be abetting your escape will also be arrested,” Sinas said.

After meeting Dacera’s family, Sinas said in a press briefing that some of the suspects have already made “initial contacts” with the police. He also appealed to the families of the other suspects to coordinate with the authorities.

According to Sinas, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which will be assisting the Makati City Police in the investigation, has already issued subpoenas for the eight suspects and warned them of contempt charges if they fail to surrender within the 72-hour period.

The PNP chief also stood by the police findings that Dacera was raped. He said they have evidence but could not reveal it, as the investigation is still ongoing.

In an interview with CNN Philippines Wednesday morning, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana backed the earlier statement of the PNP that the case is already considered solved as the suspects have already been identified and some of them arrested. But he noted that the case is not yet considered closed.

When asked about Sinas’ ultimatum to the suspects, Usana said, “That actually is a call for them to really surrender themselves inasmuch as they have already been identified.”

Usana added, “It is enough for us to wait for the issuance of the warrant of arrest coming from the court itself because the inquest case has already been filed."

The Makati City Prosecutors’ Office referred the case of Christina Dacera back to the police for further investigation. It also ordered the release of three suspects, who are currently detained pending preliminary investigation.

“At this point, the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped. And if sexual assault/rape was committed, who is/are the person/s responsible?” the resolution said.

The resolution also said the police officers do not have yet additional evidence including a DNA analysis report, toxicology/chemical analysis and histopath examination.

Dacera's death 'natural' according to medico-legal report, Dacera family does not agree with the findings

On Jan. 27, the medico-legal report from the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory dated Jan. 11 said that Dacera died due to a natural cause. “The ruptured aortic aneurysm will remain the cause of death as shown in the autopsy findings.” The report was submitted to the prosecution during the preliminary investigation into her death.

The report states that though the aneurysm is common among elderly patients due to atherosclerosis, it could also happen in the younger age groups due to other reasons, including increased blood pressure like in the case of Dacera, who was 23-year-old at the time of her death.

"The loss of blood due to the ruptured aorta killed her within a few hours. The dilatation or aneurysm started long time ago or maybe years, prior to her death. No alcohol or recreational drugs taken the night prior to her death will cause that kind of dilatation or defect on her aorta," the report pointed out.

The report also said that Dacera’s heart weighed 500 grams, which is larger compared to a heart’s normal weight of 300 grams. This finding, according to the report, “supports Dacera’s apparently undiagnosed hypertension.”

Homicide as the cause of Dacera’s death was also ruled out in the report and that “rape and/or drug overdose will not result to the development of aneurysms.”

However, Dacera’s family does not agree with the findings in PNP Crime Lab report.

Speaking with ABS-CBN Teleradyo on Jan. 28, Dacera’s family lawyer Roger Reyes said, “The medico-legal report ni Dr. (Lt. Col. Joseph) Palmero is not a medico-legal examination” because Dacera’s body was already buried last Jan. 11. “There’s no way he could have examined the body on Jan. 11.”

According to Reyes, the family, who disputes the claim that the flight attendant died of natural causes because of the bruises found on her body, firmly believes that Dacera’s drink was spiked with drugs and that she was sexually molested in either room 2207 and 2209, which contributed to her death.

“This case is definitely not closed, and we have to identify additional respondents in room 2207,” said Reyes, who noted that the family is waiting for the results of the second autopsy from the NBI.

Meanwhile, in an interview with DZRH on last Jan. 5, Sen. Manny Pacquiao appealed to those who have knowledge of the crime to come out. He also offered P500,000 bounty for the capture of the suspects. Pacquiao said he personally knows the Dacera family as they are also from his hometown of General Santos City.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap also called for justice for Dacera’s death and announced on his Facebook page Tuesday that he is offering P100,000 to anyone who has information about the crime or the whereabouts of the still at large suspects.

Dacera family calls for justice, tells suspects to speak up

Sharon Dacera on the suspects in her daugter's death: 'Wala na anak ko, wala na laban sa inyo. So kung talagang walang kasalanan, lumabas kayo.' Screenshot from ABS-CBN News

In a press conference, the Dacera’s family pointed out that at the moment, there are “many loose ends” in the case and the family hopes to uncover more facts.

The family’s spokesperson, lawyer Brick Reyes, said that they would press charges against the City Garden Grand Hotel for allowing several people to stay in its rooms, which is a violation of the COVID-19 protocols imposed by the IATF.

Reyes also questioned the initial autopsy that was done by SOCO physician Dr. Sarmiento, and said the family is currently requesting for another autopsy. “What kind of autopsy is this? You did not specify the other injuries? If you look closely of the medico legal of Dr. Sarmiento, it is not complete as far as we are concerned.”

(In a report by the Philippine STAR, Makati City Police station chief Col. Harold Depositar said that the victim was pronounced dead due to ruptured aortic aneurysm.)

On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the National Bureau of Investigation will conduct a second autopsy on the body of the victim and its forensic team is assisting and coordinating with Makati City Police’s SOCO.

Guevarra also said that the NBI is helping the PNP to determine the “true cause of death” of Dacera.

On Jan. 27, Wednesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the NBI is “ready with their toxicology report” but left it to the bureau to disclose the findings.

The family’s spokesperson also said that they have a problem with the Makati City Police Department releasing one of the suspects, who should have been detained and properly investigated.

During the press conference, an emotional Sharon Dacera, the victim’s mother, addressed the stories about her daughter circulating online. “Whatever they are (saying) that my daughter is bad, they can make their own stories… but ito lang ang tanong ko, ano ba ang karapatan ninyo na babuyin at patayin ang babae na nag-iisa?” In a separate radio interview, she also called for the suspects to speak up if they are indeed innocent.

Kung wala kang kasalanan, lumabas. Magpakita ka sa amin. Say the truth kasi how can Christine speak? Wala na anak ko. So you can make your statement, how can I prove this is true? Wala na anak ko, wala na laban sa inyo. So kung talagang walang kasalanan, lumabas kayo.

De Guzman: 'We have been participating willingly. Nobody has been hiding.'

Gregorio de Guzman and his mother, singer Claire dela Fuente. Screenshot from CNN Philippines 

In an interview with DZMM Teleradyo, Gregorio de Guzman, one of the suspects and son of singer Claire dela Fuente, disclosed that it was only during that party that he met Dacera.

De Guzman was one of the first people to find Dacera unconscious in the bathtub and according to him, he was the first one to perform CPR on Dacera before calling the hotel reception for help.

When asked about his reaction on the statement of Makati Police chief Depositar that “gays are still men, especially if they are intoxicated,” he said, “For me po, never po ako nagkaroon ng sexual relations sa isang babae. Never po ako tinayuan sa isang babae. Palagi pong lalaki. Madami po makaka-testify niyan. Yan po ang opinion niya pero ako po, part po ako ng LGBT community at masasabi ko pong hindi ganyan ka-simple ang mga sinasabi niya.”

Speaking with CNN’s The Source Wednesday morning, De Guzman dispelled the rumors circulating online that it was a “raunchy” party” and said that it was a potluck dinner, where Dacera was treated like a princess because she was the only girl in the group.

De Guzman also clarified that he is not hiding and he complied with the police. “I ended up in the police station because they asked us to give a statement along with JP (Halili) and Rom (Galido). We waited for four hours. My attorney asked the police if I could go home first because they did not get my statement.”

He also said he wants to know what really happened and calls for the public to “not jump into conclusions. Let’s do the due process of law and the investigation. We have been participating willingly. Nobody has been hiding, at least to my knowledge.”