Last week, while many were welcoming 2021 and bidding farewell to the dreaded 2020, a tragedy occurred in a grand hotel in Makati City in the Philippines.
Christine Angelica Dacera checked in at the City Garden, a four-star hotel to celebrate New Year’s Eve with her friends.
However, on 1 January, 2021, the 23-year-old flight attendant at Philippines Airlines was found unconscious in the bathtub of a hotel room.
According to media reports, one of her friends, Rommel Galido woke up around 10:00 am to find Dacera asleep in the bath. He said that he then put a blanket over her and went back to sleep.
Galido then woke up around noon and noticed that Dacera was still unconscious and even turning blue. Her friends and hotel staffers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before rushing her to the Makati Medical Clinic where doctors pronounced her dead on arrival.
The facts and reports following her death have been “hazy” and “confusing” as stated by local Filipino media.
Raped And Murdered?
Initial reports suggested that Dacera had died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. However, the Makati police also noted the possibility of rape or gang rape after investigators noticed bruises and injuries on her legs.
Harold Depositar, Makati City police chief told local media that Dacera had “lacerations and sperm in her genitalia.” Nevertheless, the claim was made without providing an autopsy or medico-legal report.
On 4 January, the police said her death was a case of murder and homicide – a “rape-slay.” It was then declared “solved” without the police shedding more light on Dacera’s death.
They filed rape and homicide provisional complaints against 11 men identified to have been with Dacera on that fateful day. Three of the suspects were then detained.
Of the 11 suspects, the trio were her actual friends while the other eight men “were practically strangers to her, as they were only known to her three friends,” said Depositar.
This enraged Filipinos who were “fed up with a culture and environment that has long victimised women,” wrote Rambo Talabong, a local journalist for Rappler. Many went on social media platforms such as Twitter to express their anger and to demand justice for the victim.
However, there have been new speculations about the rape claim.
On 6 January, the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office ordered the release of the three men who were in custody due to lack of proof that she had been raped or murdered by them.
The prosecutors also urged the police to release the results of the victim’s DNA analysis, toxicology report, and histopath examination.
The prosecutors insisted that “the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped.” They also said that even if Dacera had been raped, the police have yet to show that it caused her death.
One of the three men detained, and also a friend of the deceased, offered a rather bizarre claim to his innocence, that he and many of the other attendees at the ill-fated party are homosexuals. Gregorio de Guzman said that he and his co-accused could not have raped and murdered Dacera as they were all sexually attracted to men only.
“For me, I’ve never had sexual relations with a woman. I’ve never been aroused by a woman. Always a man. Many can testify to that,” he claimed.
Local public figures and netizens have apologized for the spread of online misinformation surrounding the case and many have deleted their misleading social media posts amid conflicting reports and ongoing investigation by authorities.
"I am one of those who posted using the term 'rape' and the hashtag justice because the authorities said it was rape. I feel ashamed but also so confused with the conflicting reports," said Bianca Gonzales, a television host. "The call for justice remains, but justice to find the truth for both Christine and the accused."
However, Galido – Dacera’s friend who first found her in the bathtub said that she told him at one point that she believed “someone put something in my drink.”
Justice For Christine
Christine Dacera’s family in a press conference on 5 January said that they have seen the autopsy report which declared that she had died of an aneurysm. Nevertheless, they said that the autopsy done was “incomplete” and have requested for a second autopsy.
It is still uncertain how Dacera’s aorta was ruptured. However, police and a lawyer for Dacera’s family believe that the aneurysm was a result of an assault or abuse.
Dacera’s mother, Sharon has called for President Rodrigo Duterte’s help in seeking justice for her daughter.
“I am just an ordinary person. Ma’am Sara Duterte, you are also a mom. You have a daughter too,” she told local media. “That is why I want to come out in the open because I don’t want that somebody will be a victim by this kind of brutality, barbaric,” she added.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, said President Duterte is assuring the Dacera family of justice.
The Makati Office of the City Prosecutor is set to begin a preliminary investigation of the case on 13 January, 2021.