Forensic expert: 'Too late' to swab for evidence of rape in Dacera case

It's already "too late" to swab flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera to find substantial evidence of rape.

This was the opinion expressed by forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun during a Rappler Talk interview Wednesday afternoon, January 6.

"Well swabbing, sampling, for anything, it's too late. It's too late because by this time, the body has been washed, cleaned, and it's been 5 days," Fortun said.

Why is it too late?

23-year-old Dacera was the flight attendant who was found unresponsive in a Makati hotel bathtub on January 1 after partying with a group of men, reportedly all gay.

Since then, her body was embalmed then examined at least once by a police doctor, who, according to the Dacera family, did not find any telling evidence – including semen in the genitalia of Dacera – of rape.

The body has also been embalmed, which means it has been cleaned, making it unlikely to still find any male DNA through swabbing. A toxicology report would also yield almost nothing, as the blood has been flushed out.

Why does this matter?

Aside from homicide, rape is one of the main allegations of the Makati police against the men Dacera was last seen with.

In a resolution on Wednesday, January 6, Makati Assistant City Prosecutor Joan Bolina-Santillan ordered the release of 3 suspects police had arrested, tossed back the police complaint, and told the cops to gather more evidence.

Santillan said in her resolution that the police failed to establish how Dacera died, much less if she was killed or raped in the first place.

Can rape still be proven?

With forensic investigation, proving rape is already unlikely. Fortun said she could try examining the vitreous fluid – eye fluid – as an option, but it would need examination from abroad.

Other evidence can still be gathered to establish rape, like physical evidence, documentary evidence, or testimonial evidence.

The police so far, however, have not spoken with most of the suspects, and it is unclear if they were able to seize any evidence in the hotel room that would point to rape. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.