Trigger Warning: sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming.
Late last night, on January 4, news broke of a crime that had occurred three days prior on January 1 as the country celebrated the new year. In the early hours of 2021, 23-year-old flight attendant Christine Dacera was found dead in a bathtub in City Garden Hotel in Poblacion, Makati, after a night of revelry with a group of friends.
Her tragic death and the mysterious events leading up to it have attracted national attention.
What happened on new year's eve?
According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), Dacera celebrated New Year's Eve with a group of friends in the popular bar area of Poblacion in Makati. At 12:30 a.m. on January 1, Dacera and three friends checked into City Garden Hotel, and were visibly intoxicated based on CCTV footage.
Dacera's mother, Sharon Dacera, said her daughter called her at 12:34 a.m., seeking permission to attend a party with her friends.
"'Sinong kasama mo, 'nak?' 'Siyempre, yung mga friends ko po rin na flight attendant.' Sabi ko sino, so 'yon pinakita niya sa'kin mga flight attendants. So, in short, since I really trust my daughter, sabi ko 'Basta enjoy ka, enjoy enjoy lang 'nak,'" recounted Sharon.
The celebration took place in two adjacent hotel rooms, and sometime in the night, more friends showed up at the hotel party. Drugs or prohibited substances are suspected to have been present at the party. Liquor bottles were found at the scene.
"May binitawang salita si Christine na tinanong itong kaibigan niya, sabi niya, 'Parang may nilagay si [name] doon sa drinks ko kasi nag-iba 'yung pakiramdam ko,'" said Makati City police chief Col. Harold Depositar.
Sometime in the night, Dacera left one room to enter the adjacent room with a man, then was carried back to the other hotel room later that night. She was later found unconscious in the bathtub by friend Rommel Galido at around 10 a.m. He believed her to be sleeping and reportedly covered her with a blanket and went back to bed.
However, a few hours later at midday, Galido was shocked to find her still in the bathtub, this time turning blue.
Hotel personnel arrived at the scene and a hotel manager performed CPR on Dacera to resuscitate her. She was rushed to the hotel clinic, and then to Makati Medical Center where she was declared dead upon arrival.
What was the cause of death?
Official reports cite a ruptured aortic aneurysm as the cause of death. An aortic aneurysm can be caused by various factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infection, or sudden traumatic injury.
The Makati Police chief says that the cause of death could have been natural, however, there are other factors at play as the victim had lacerations on her thighs, contusions on her knees, and scratches on her body. Lacerations and sperm were also found in her genitalia.
"There was sexual contact, based on medico-legal report," Depositar said.
The autopsy findings and toxicology report are expected to be submitted today.
Who are the suspects?
The Philippine National Police has named 12 suspects in the rape-slay case of Christine Dacera: John Pascual Dela Serna III, Rommel Daluro Galido, John Paul Reyes Halili, Gregorio Angelo de Guzman, Louie de Lima, Clark Jezreel Rapinan, Rey Englis, Mark Anthony Rosales, Jammyr Cunanan, Valentine Rosales, a certain Ed Madrid, and a certain Paul.
All 12 are said to have been present at the hotel party attended by Dacera prior to her death. So far, only three have been arrested: Dela Serna, 27; Galido, 29; and Halili, 25. They are now being charged with the crime of rape with homicide.
The rest are still being sought by the PNP.
PNP: 'Case Solved?'
PNP released this news in a social media press release titled "Police Solved New Year Rape-Slay Of Flight Attendant." PNP police general Debold Sinas stated that the case has been "solved" with "the arrest and indictment of three suspects," who are now facing rape and homicide charges after inquest proceedings at the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office.
The PNP identify a case as "solved" when suspects have been identified. However, this is not the same as being convicted or proven guilty.
Her family's reaction
The victim's family, who reside in General Santos, were informed of their daughter's death 12 hours after she died.
"Ba't kailangan gawin 'yon nila sa anak ko? I want to seek justice. Justice for my daughter na sana hindi rin 'yan mangyari sa anak nila. Ni-rape nila ang anak ko. Sana hindi 'yan mangyari sa kapatid niya, sa anak niya. Ayaw kong may mabiktima pa sila ulit," said the victim's grieving mother.
"Ang gusto lang naman sana ni Christine is magsaya no'ng year-end party na 'yon. Kung anumang kababuyan ginawa niyo sa anak ko, hindi deserve ni Christine 'yon…'Wag niyo gawing baboy ang anak ko, tao ang anak ko."
According to the family's counsel, Atty. Jose Ledda, they suspect there was foul play in her death.
"Hindi inaasahan ng biktima na sa gabing 'yon, 'yon ang mga makakasama niya. Let's just put it that way. She was supposed to be with friends and she was not supposed to be with strangers. She was with friends and suddenly, dumami sila," the family's counsel said.
Social media plays jury
Christine Dacera's rape-slay case has gone viral, attracting national attention on news broadcasts and social media. It has reignited debates on rape culture and victim-blaming as some netizens criticized Dacera on social media for the clothes she wore and drinking with men, while the opposite camp insists that rape is caused by rapists.
Meanwhile, the names of the suspects have been trending on Twitter since last night as social media netizens play jury against all the suspects, none of whom have been convicted in the court of law. This online incident is being criticized as a trial by publicity.
Friends of the suspects have also stepped forward on social media, claiming that many of the suspects are gay and bisexual, putting more doubt on the alleged rape-slay case.
What really happened?
According to the Makati police, the suspects have contradicting reports of the events that led up to the victim's death. They are now seeking the remaining suspects to clarify what really happened that night.
An arrest warrant may be issued for the suspects who remain in hiding.
Who is Christine Dacera?
Dead at 23 years old, Dacera was a flight attendant at Philippine Airlines prior to her death. Her last Instagram post was of her aboard a flight wearing PPE gear. She began working at PAL in May 2019, after a stint in beauty pageants and marketing.
A native of General Santos City, Dacera attended the University of the Philippines Mindanao from 2013 to 2017, graduating cum laude with a degree in communication and media studies.
She leaves behind her parents, two sisters, and a brother, all of whom mourn her death.
To friends and family, she was known as "Tin."
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.