PNP probe finds no drugs, no rape-slay in Dacera death
MANILA, Philippines — Contrary to earlier claims of police investigators and the family of Christine Angelica Dacera, the 23-year-old flight attendant died of cardiac arrest and could not have been raped, according to new police findings submitted to Makati state prosecutors.
A police forensic report also showed that a sachet found in the hotel room where Dacera stayed did not contain crystal meth or any party drug, but table salt.
The Philippine National Police presented the additional evidence to the city prosecutor’s office upon the resumption of its preliminary investigation into the rape with homicide complaint filed by the local police and the woman’s family on Wednesday.
Dacera was found unconscious by her friends past noon on Jan. 1, after a New Year’s Eve party at Room 2209 of City Garden Grand Hotel. She was declared dead on arrival at Makati Medical Center (MMC).
Her family insisted that she was unknowingly drugged and raped by her gay friends before she died. They disputed the autopsy conducted by the Southern Police District (SPD) medicolegal officer, which stated the cause of death as ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Among the new documents presented to the prosecutors was a report of the histopathology examination made by the Philippine National Police-Crime Laboratory Office (PNP-CLO) showing that Dacera died of cardiopulmonary arrest due to “hypovolemic shock” (loss of more than 50 percent of blood or body fluid).
It said the underlying cause of death was ruptured aortic aneurysm—which was consistent with the autopsy finding of Police Maj. Michael Nick Sarmiento, the SPD-CLO medicolegal officer.
The histopathology exam was conducted by Police Lt. Col. Joseph Palmero, a medical doctor and PNP-CLO medicolegal officer, and was completed on Jan. 11.
“Manner of death as homicide is ruled out in Dacera’s case because the aortic aneurysm is considered a medical condition,” Palmero said. “Based on the available information on hand, the manner of death is classified as natural death.”
He said the ruptured aneurysm caused Dacera’s weakness, nausea, and excessive sweating. “This can explain why she was feeling weird and unlike the feeling of hangover from previous drinking sessions.”
Dacera’s friends recalled that hours before she was found dead, Dacera was vomiting continuously for hours.
“The loss of blood due to the ruptured aorta killed her within few hours. That dilatation of aneurysm started long time ago or maybe years, prior to her death,” Palmero said.
He echoed an earlier opinion of Dr. Raquel Fortun, one of the country’s two forensic pathologists, that no alcohol or recreational drugs—assuming it was taken unknowingly by Dacera—could cause her aneurysm.
“[The aneurysm] is a chronic condition and was present long before she died. If she did not die that fateful night, she will still die in any scenario that presents an activity that will increase her blood pressure strong enough to tear that aneurysm,” he said.
According to Palmero, the rupture of aneurysm may occur if blood pressure shoots up due to strenuous physical activities. Vomiting, he said, could also increase blood pressure and trigger the tear.
The examination also found that Dacera’s heart “abnormally” weighed 500 grams, as opposed to the normal heart weight of 300 grams.
“This is a finding that supports Dacera’s apparently undiagnosed hypertension. Her heart is enlarged and most probably it is due to her chronic hypertension,” Palmero said.
Moreover, signs of internal bleeding were found in Dacera’s kidneys, he said, adding that these were “highly suggestive that there was really significant increase in her blood pressure prior to her death.”
DNA, chemistry exams
A DNA examination conducted on the underwear of Dacera found that only her DNA was found. “No mixed DNA was observed,” stated the report made by Police Maj. Jasper Magana, forensic DNA analyst of PNP-CLO, and completed on Jan. 21.
A chemistry report on a sachet containing 0.14 grams of “white crystalline substance” found at Room 2209 stated that it was not crystal meth, but sodium chloride or table salt.
Results of the examination conducted by Police Maj. Ofelia Vallejo, forensic chemist of SPD-CLO, and completed on Jan. 12, showed that the specimen did not contain methamphetamine hydrochloride (“shabu”), amphetamine-type stimulants, cathinone, or benzylpiperazine, a party drug.
The PNP has yet to submit results of the toxicology analysis, which would show what substances Dacera had taken before her death.
Results of medical tests conducted by MMC on Dacera’s body hours after her death, which was requested and paid for by her family, were also not submitted.
The city police had also failed to present the full CCTV footage during the last hours of Dacera at the hotel.
Mike Santiago, the lawyer for the respondents, Rommel Galido, Valentine Rosales, John Pascual dela Serna, Clark Rapinan, Gregorio Angelo and Rafael de Guzman, refused to comment on the new police evidence.
“The documents will speak for themselves. We will not make any conclusion as to these reports yet. We do not want to preempt or overstep on the powers of the prosecutor in resolving this case,” he said.
Dacera’s family has commissioned the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a second autopsy on her body.
“The NBI forensic team is ready with their toxicology report. I will leave it to them to disclose their findings,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a Viber message on Wednesday.
“I understand that they have requested a certain specimen from the PNP and copies of Dacera’s medical records to complete the whole picture,” he said.
NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said he could not provide any update on the matter as the investigators had yet to conduct a case conference on their latest findings.
Gen. Debold Sinas, the PNP chief, has already ordered an internal probe into the alleged mishandling by the Makati police of its investigation that resulted in the release of three men who were initially held for Dacera’s death.
The failure of the Makati police had also prompted state prosecutors to remand for further investigation the case it filed against the group of men who were with her hours before she was found unconscious.
Dacera’s family has filed an administrative complaint against Sarmiento, the SPD-CLO medicolegal officer, for allegedly messing up the investigation of her death.
Sarmiento had reportedly ordered the embalming of the body at Rizal Funeral Homes in Pasay City without seeking the family’s authorization and without performing a forensic exam.
The prosecutor’s office has scheduled the next hearing of its preliminary investigation for Feb. 3, with the 11 respondents submitting their counter-affidavits. –WITH A REPORT FROM MARLON RAMOS
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