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After ‘careless’ handling of Christine Dacera’s case, groups urge transparent investigation

Trigger warning: rape, sexual harassment

Seeking justice for flight attendant Christine Dacera, several groups called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be thorough and transparent after it branded her case as "solved" and alleged it to be a rape-slay ahead of a full investigation.

The police had released incomplete information on the case when they declared Dacera a victim of rape and homicide, even though they had yet to apprehend and obtain testimonies from at least 9 suspects who remain at large. (READ: What we know so far: The death of Christine Dacera)

On Wednesday, January 6, 2020, Prosecutor General Ben Malcontento ordered the release of the three apprehended suspects and referred Dacera's case for further investigation.

This had pushed groups, particularly Kasama Ka sa Paglikha ng Arte at Literatura Para sa Bayan (KALikha), to criticize the PNP for their "reckless statements and careless handling" of Dacera's case, which has "triggered a lot of rape survivors to relive their trauma."

"By concluding that a case is already solved without providing clear evidence and being able to take into custody all persons of interest is a gross violation of due process and is a further injustice to Christine's death," said KALikha.

KALikha urged the PNP to be transparent with their investigation and support their statements with the relevant facts of the case.

"It is the burden of the PNP to prove the facts of the case and be held accountable for prematurely releasing a report that is incomplete and inconclusive. We demand the PNP to be sensitive and give respect to the grieving family as they handle and release further information regarding the case," KALikha said.

The youth organization also demands full cooperation from the identified suspects, stressing that their sworn statements are crucial information in solving Dacera's case.

"The presumption of their innocence is not mutually exclusive from seeking full accountability and clarity to what happened to Miss Dacera," KALikha said.

The University of the Philippines Diliman University Freshie Council (UPD UFC) urged the public to keep an eye on the PNP to ensure Dacera gets justice.

"While it is questionable for an institution with a track record of twisting facts and planting evidence, we, the general public, should be more vigilant while the whole investigation is ongoing so we could hold the PNP and all involved parties accountable," the student council said.

Acknowledging how more has to be done to break away from the culture of sexual abuse and violence, the UPD UFC also called for a vigorous implementation of the Safe Spaces Act and the institutionalization of psychosocial support for victim-survivors.

UP Los Baños Babaylan likewise called for a thorough investigation and autopsy to know the complete story of the case.

"Ang kasong ito ay hindi dapat tuldukan at markahan bilang isang ‘solved’ case hanggat hindi pa natatapos ang proseso ng imbestigasyon at hindi pa napatutunayan ang mga tunay na nasa likod ng krimen," the grouop said.

(This case should not be closed and marked as a "solved" case until the process of the investigation is not over and the truth behind the crime is not uncovered.)

Even Dacera's alma mater UP Mindanao had urged authorities to "investigate and serve the justice she deserves."

End to victim-blaming

As Dacera's family seeks justice for the flight attendant, several groups, particularly UPD UFC, pointed out how "cases like Dacera’s would continue to prevail if the system continues to tolerate perpetrators and rationalize the culture of victim blaming and objectification of women."

For the student publication of UP Mindanao Himati, how the public responded through victim-blaming reinforces beliefs that “shrink” safe spaces for women.

"Nowhere is safe when simply existing serves as an invitation for violence to those who wish to violate," Himati said.

Some groups also emphasized that the culture of sexual abuse and violence in the Philippines is "tolerated and pampered" by President Rodrigo Duterte and the current administration.

Throughout his term, Duterte is known to drop sexist remarks and rape jokes in his speeches. 

Such instances, says the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), are “damaging enough for women, [as well as] encourage patriarchy that brings women down.”

The President, in a speech, had ordered soldiers not to kill female rebels but to shoot them in the vagina instead so that they would become "useless." (READ: HRW: Duterte's 'shoot women in vagina' remark violates int'l humanitarian law)

Even before he was proclaimed as president, a video of Duterte making a joke of the Australian missionary that was raped and saying "dapat ang mayor ang mauna (the mayor should be first)" has made rounds on social media. (WATCH: VIRAL: Video of Duterte joking about raped Australian woman)

The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines also slammed the victim-blaming and shaming of Dacera, asserting that rape doesn’t happen because of the clothes that women wear or people’s level of intoxication.

Pre-empting the usual narrative of victim-blaming, The League of Filipino Students emphasized that rape exists because of rapists.

Advocates say that victim-blaming happens when rape survivors are unjustly blamed and often held responsible for the crimes committed against them.

For these youth groups, unity is important in smashing such toxic culture, but one must always empathize with the victims first and hold those perpetrators accountable. –