Initial police pronouncements declared without qualification that the case of Christine Angelica Dacera was a rape-slay perpetrated by a gang of 11 men.
A gang-rape brings up mental images of savage deflowerment, men taking turns satisfying their lust, inflicting pain and suffering, heaping untold humiliation upon the hapless victim. Imagine – 11 men.
It is one of those offenses that prompt an instinctive relaxation of our standards of due process. Suspects grabbing the service firearms of their escorts and getting killed while doing so is widely validated in this country as a speedier and likelier route to justice and retribution.
This is where the legal guarantee of presumption of innocence is mocked as an empty paean to the altar of fair play. It is seen as an obstacle to law enforcement rather than as an implement of the rule of law and a foil to mob rule.
In fact, public uproar over the Dacera alleged gang-rape has inspired a couple of politicians to genuflect to the crowd and put up bounties for the apprehension of the “suspects.” This was followed by a manhunt ordered by no less than the head of the entire national police.
There is a “suspect” if there is a crime. Has a crime been shown to have been committed?
The Office of the City Prosecutor of Makati evidently did not think so if the sole basis were the submissions of the police. It ordered the release of Christine’s friends who were being held. It also ordered the police to submit inculpatory evidence.
Thanks to the sleuthing of forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, the police’s case against the respondents has been undressed as a skeleton without muscle.
The “crime scene” has been shorn of its integrity. There is nothing to show that the scene of the crime was preserved and investigated by the authorities prior to possible contamination.
As observed by Dr. Fortun, the autopsy report itself admits that Christine’s body was embalmed before an autopsy was conducted. This is a monumental lapse. Embalming entails careful washing of the body and draining of the fluids to give way to chemicals.
To recall, the Makati police had proudly announced that the case was solved. They then “provisionally” charged11 men said to be responsible for Christine’s gang rape and murder. Their report claims she was found with scratches and bruises across her body, as well as “lacerations and sperm in her genitalia.”
The lacerations found are not fresh lacerations and therefore could not have been sustained on the night in question. Also, lacerations by themselves are not surefire indicia of rape. Lacerations may be sustained even during consensual congress.
The claim that there was “sperm in the genitalia” is belied by the autopsy report. The body had been washed and cleaned because of the embalming. The police may not by mere words supply what is not supported by evidence.
In most cases of rape, the only actors are the rapist and the victim. It is a crime usually perpetrated in privacy or in darkness. The only witness who can identify the attacker and testify directly on what transpired is the victim herself, if she is alive. It would be unnatural for an accused to testify against himself.
There is great need for forensic evidence in a case such as this one where the alleged victim is no longer alive to testify. The body of the victim would be a fertile source of such evidence. The body would speak for her.
Alas, as pointed out, the authorities have not protected the evidence that can suggest whether or not a crime was committed in the first place. A court of law is not expected to give much probative value to tainted evidence.
The solitary circumstance that prompted the police to file a provisional charge with the prosecutors appears to be respondents’ mere presence at the party. They have not shown that Christine’s death resulted from violence inflicted with intent to injure.
Also, there is no indication that the police have identified each suspect’s individual participation in the supposed rape and murder of Christine – a very serious allegation that can permanently damage the reputation of the innocent.
This is lazy police work, one that we do not expect to emanate from the financial capital of the Philippines.
The purpose of an investigation is not only to see that the guilty is identified and punished. It is also to ensure that the innocent is protected from the trouble and expense of facing a prosecution that has no basis in fact and in law./WDJ