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NBI winding up probe into Dacera case, wants to be 'as thorough as possible'

While it is supposed to be "winding up" its probe into the death of Christine Dacera, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) wants to talk to more witnesses and gather more evidence to ensure a "thorough" investigation, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday, February 5.

"They're already winding up their investigation. As far as I know their forensic examination is done, they already have a toxicology report, but you know the NBI is trying to be as thorough as possible. All bases they're trying to cover," Guevarra said during the Laging Handa briefing on Friday.

The NBI, an attached agency to the Department of Justice (DOJ), is being pressed on the results of its probe after the Philippine National Police (PNP) crime laboratory released its findings that Dacera died of natural causes, thus ruling out homicide.

The PNP crime lab report contradicts the earlier sensational claim of Makati police that Dacera was raped and killed.

Guevarra asked the NBI to step in to clean the police mess, but it has been nearly a month since he gave the directive. The DOJ chief said that the NBI wants to talk to more witnesses and gather more evidence.

"Meron pa silang hinahanap na certain other witnesses na hindi pa nakakapagtestify, 'yung embalmer, at meron pa silang hinahanap na mobile phones na isa-subject pa sa forensic examination," said Guevarra.

(They're still looking for certain other witnesses who haven't testified yet, for example the embalmer, and they're looking for mobile phones that they will subject to forensic examination.)

What happens to the case

Guevarra said the NBI can submit its findings before the investigating prosecutor in Makati resolves the complaint.

Makati prosecutors earlier ordered a further probe into the case, and released the suspects who were arrested without warrants. The suspects, Dacera's gay friends who were with her at the party, had vehemently denied the rape and murder allegations.

Should the NBI report contradict the PNP's findings, Guevarra said the prosecutor would likely call for more clarificatory hearings.

Dacera's family has insisted that there was foul play in the flight attendant's death, going as far as to suspect that the PNP might have autopsied other specimens to rule out homicide. The family wants a DNA test on the specimens used by the PNP crime lab and is willing to exhume Dacera's remains to check if they match.

Guevarra reiterated that the main issue to be resolved is whether Dacera was raped or killed, or both.

The Dacera case highlighted the flaws of the criminal justice system, especially the haphazard investigations of the police, exposed in part by the suspects and the public pressure that followed. 

The prosecutor's initial dismissal of the police's rape-slay complaint has also prompted senators to look into possible reforms that would improve the procedures. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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