(Photo courtesy of Clodet Loreto, PTV Davao)

MANILA – Police investigators are now identifying the occupants of the hotel room where 23-year-old flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera went back and forth hours before she died, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said on Friday.

In a television interview, NCRPO chief Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said the newly-formed special investigation task group (SITG) seeks to ascertain the identities of the people who were in Room 2209 of the City Garden Grand Hotel, as the victim entered and left the room multiple times.

“We presume that an hour or three hours before she passed out, she came from that room. Doon po kami naka-focus [That’s what we are focusing on],” Danao said.

Dacera checked in at Room 2209 of the Hotel to celebrate New Year’s Eve with her friends. The next day, she was found dead in the bathtub of the hotel room with the suspicion that she was raped.

“I’m calling on the friends na nandoon po sa (who were in) (room) 2209 to help us in the investigation. Meron po silang isang friend diyan na siya ang nagdala noong grupo na iyon. ‘Yun ang kailangan nating makuha (There is this one friend of them who brought the group there. That is what we should determine),” Danao said.

Some of the suspects claimed they met some men in another room, whom they identified as gay.

“Sa ngayon nangangalap pa tayo ng additional evidence, para ma-strengthen at gawing airtight case. Ang number one natin na makita natin o ma-establish is if there was a foul play at syempre kung ‘yung tao ay naging intoxicated na, if there was rape (Right now, we are still gathering additional evidence to strengthen and make an airtight case. Now, we need to establish if there was foul play and if rape occurred once the victim got intoxicated),” he said.

Danao also said that due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, there is a new protocol ordering the immediate embalming of a cadaver before the conduct of an autopsy.

“Inamin naman kasi nung ating medico legal na in-embalm muna bago ang autopsy. Well, ang take ko kasi diyan siguro kasi because of the new Covid protocol especially in times of pandemic meron kasing bagong guidelines ngayon (Our medico legal admitted that it was embalmed first before undergoing autopsy. Well, my take is because maybe because of the new Covid-19 protocol, especially now that we are in the midst of a pandemic),” he told reporters in a separate interview.

Danao said they are assessing if they can use the collected specimen from Dacera’s body for other vital examinations including the conduct of toxicology examination which can even identify the use of illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a probe on the case.

“The NBI, through Officer-In-Charge Eric B. Distor, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct an investigation on the death of Christine Angelica F. Dacera, who died on 01 January 2021 in Makati City and if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection therewith,” Guevarra said in Department Order No. 006 released on Friday.

Guevarra also directed the NBI to submit reports on the progress of the investigation to his office “within 10 days and periodically thereafter”.

On Wednesday, the Makati City Prosecutors Office ordered a further investigation of the case and the release of three detained suspects identified as John Pascual Dela Serna, Rommel Galido, and John Paul Halili due to insufficient evidence.

Danao, meanwhile, clarified that the three are not yet off the hook as they should prove their innocence by submitting sworn statements.

Police officers were also ordered to submit a DNA analysis report, toxicology/chemical analysis, and a histopathology examination report as additional pieces of evidence.

The hearing for the preliminary investigation of the case was set for Jan. 13. (with reports from Benjamin Pulta/PNA)


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