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Jumping to conclusions?

The curious case of flight attendant Christine Dacera, who died after a New Year’s party in a Makati hotel, has captured the nation’s imagination, distracting Filipinos from the uproar caused by the Presidential Security Group vaccination scandal that welcomed the New Year for most Filipinos, who by now should have learned that a new calendar means nothing, as far as any change in the way we are governed, is concerned.

Everyone is talking about it, from the internet to the office water cooler, and based on what we have gathered, so far, the easiest conclusion to make is that the Philippine National Police is a big part of the problem in this country.

Dacera, a 23-year-old flight attendant, was last seen partying with 12 men at the City Garden Hotel in Makati City to welcome the New Year.

According to reports, the hotel front desk received a call from a male person at 12:25 p.m. of January 1, seeking assistance as Dacera is unconscious in the bathtub. Her companions rushed her to Makati Medical Center where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

An autopsy was performed on the body of Dacera the following day, led by a medico-legal police officer. A report by the Southern Police District Crime Laboratory Office that was eventually leaked and circulated on social media indicated the cause of death as “consistent” with what was previously reported as ruptured aortic aneurysm. The report mentioned bruises on her right hand, right thigh, knees, ankles and right foot, and a linear abrasion on her right thigh. Deep lacerations and abrasions were also reported in the genital examination. It was also noted that Dacera was already embalmed prior to the autopsy.

Despite this report, the Philippine National Police sent a statement on the incident to the media on January 4, claiming that they have already “solved” Dacera’s “rape-slay” case.  PNP Chief Police General Debold Sinas said they have already arrested three suspects who were charged with the crime of rape with homicide. The police is tracking down other suspects.

This is when all hell breaks loose. The Christine Dacera rape slay case as peddled by the PNP chief himself, fueled by an inexplicable thirst for publicity and propaganda but unfortunately backed up by a sloppy investigation, goes viral.

The PNP Chief gives the “suspects” whose names have been plastered all over media, 72 hours to surrender or authorities will “hunt them down”.

Joining the fray, a senator offers a P500K bounty. A partylist representative announces his own P100K reward. Unsurprisingly, words like “nanlaban” and death penalty are bandied around. 2021 starts with bloodthirsty Filipinos already out for more blood.

And then…a day after the PNP gave eight of the 11 suspects 72 hours to surrender, the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office says evidence submitted by the police to support its complaint is insufficient.

In other words, the police failed to provide medical or scientific evidence of a crime. The prosecutors said there were no DNA analysis results, toxicology/chemical analysis, and histopathology examination.

For a case the PNP chief himself had confidently declared closed, the evidence submitted only established the timeline of what time the suspects and Dacera checked in, what time their party started, what she drank, and what time she was last seen alive. There is also evidence of the time she was discovered unconscious, what hospital she was taken to, and the cause of death based on the death certificate issued by the hospital.

Today, the nation still does not know the truth behind the death of Christine Dacera. But one thing is certain, the reputations of the men she was with that night have also been murdered by the hasty and irresponsible handling of the case by the highest police official in the land.

What makes matters depressing at this point is this is a top cop who can do no wrong, having already been pardoned by the president after being caught red-handed violating quarantine regulations that powerless Filipinos have been cruelly punished for.

If Christine Dacera’s death was indeed caused by another person, we will need justice to be served. If she was raped, an extra helping will be required. However, the only way to determine this is if a proper investigation is conducted and based on the actions of its top cop, the PNP doesn’t seem to be capable of asking questions first and shooting later. Perhaps, they’ve shot first and asked questions later for too long.

The Christine Dacera case is an utterly disgusting example of how our police conduct investigations into questionable deaths. It is a warning that anyone in this country can be accused of rape and murder and hunted down like criminals, just like that. If there are grieving family members and suspicious circumstances, evidence is an afterthought. When the PNP chief has the power to declare a crime took place, arrest warrants are not necessary to declare manhunts and evidence just slows down effective policework.

I would like to believe that our police is capable of investigating deaths properly, gathering evidence, and using science to build a case. They don’t jump to conclusions and instinctively shoot from the hip. They are not judge, jury, and executioner but exist to serve and protect everyone equally, always presuming innocence and exercising maximum tolerance.

Christine Dacera deserves justice. So does every Filipino in this country. Justice from rapists and murderers. Justice from false and hasty accusations.

Is the PNP is part of the solution or a part of the problem?*

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