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[OPINION] The death of Dacera

It is a scourge, this kind of death. Social media makes it worse, with so many views and comments that are false, wrong, or misleading, and thus do not help the case. I shall try a basic approach.

The first step is legal clarity. The medical cause of death may be an aneurysm, but this is totally different from the legal cause – was a crime committed in the death of Christine Dacera? She died, but was she killed?

To illustrate, a person fatally shot dies from a massive hemorrhage. He died from the bleeding because someone shot him. The medico-legal report will describe the entry or exit wounds. It is wrong to say that since Dacera suffered an aneurysm, she was, therefore, not killed.

There is much talk about their gender orientation. But the gender of friends, or friends of friends, is immaterial. Any person regardless of gender can commit a crime. They can be gays, lesbians, or bisexuals, but it won’t change the determination of the crime. 

The thinking seems to be that since the companions were gay, they could not have raped her. But any person regardless of gender orientation can be liable for rape. It is false to claim that a gay or bisexual person cannot be guilty of rape. That someone had sex with her debunks this belief.

Rape was the conclusion from the findings of bruises and injuries on the arms, knees, and legs, and the presence of "sperm" (correctly, semen) found in her genitalia. The latter fact can only establish that there was sexual contact. Whether or not it was consensual is another matter.

Under the law, rape is committed when the victim is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or when there is force, threat, or intimidation. Under similar circumstances, a man can be raped and a woman can be the rapist, by the insertion of a penis, instrument, or object into the mouth or anal orifice of another person. 

Rape as a crime is a violent act and can lead to the death of the victim. It may be logical to characterize it as a "rape-slay," but certain facts are essential. What was her state of dress or undress and her position when found in the bathtub? Where are the findings of the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO)?

The medico-legal report is a static, end-state finding on a corpse. What is more important is the dynamic SOCO report that will include forensic analysis like fingerprints, body fluids, and hair, and documentary evidence like photographs and videos of the crime scene – all of which will put together who was responsible for what transpired that night. The PNP of today can access DNA analysis which can conclusively establish the presence of the person/s who ejaculated the semen.

The CCTV tapes, and the statements of parking attendants, bellboys, elevator girls, and other hotel guests, are yet to be presented. Above all, there are no less than 12 people that are actual and potential witnesses to her death. For any investigator or prosecutor, it is highly probable to be able to procure the truth from all their accounts.

One of her companions stated that Dacera had confided in him that she thought someone in the group had drugged her. This leads to the preliminary conclusion that Dacera was "deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious," which thus could have resulted in a sexual assault.

The initial 3 friends or the subsequent 9 friends of friends may or may have not intended to kill her. But the simple, bedrock criminal law principle is that a person is liable for all the consequences of his actions, especially so when the act is unlawful or illegal. 

Sure, there was drinking that night. After all, it was a New Year’s Eve celebration. It is irrelevant that she was pretty, worked as a flight attendant, was friendly, drank, or did not take precautions in the presence of instant friends who are practically strangers. There is no need for any justification in the eyes of the law. 

It is likewise misleading for the Makati police chief to immediately state that "the act of one is the act of all," that all 12 are guilty of the same crime. Criminal responsibility is always personal. There can be no guilt by mere association or party presence. Facts and law are necessary to pinpoint accountability and establish culpability.  

And their flight is indicative of guilt. Assuredly, their identities are known and knowable. But it is a reflection of a broken justice system to read that almost a week from her death, suspects were released, only a "provisional charge" was filed, police officers contradicted one another, there was no warrant of arrest, and the PNP Chief had to give an ultimatum for their surrender or be hunted down. –

A lawyer, Geronimo L. Sy is former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Justice. He set up the Office of Cybercrime and the Office for Competition.