Guevarra: NBI 'winding up' probe into Christine Dacera's death

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation is close to finishing its probe into the death of flight attendant Christine Dacera, but they will invite he embalmer who processed her body before she was autopsied, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

In a Laging Handa briefing on Friday, Guevarra, citing information from bureau spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin, said the NBI is now “winding up” its probe into Dacera’s case.

The DOJ chief said the NBI has already finished its forensic examination and has readied its toxicology report, but the bureau still intends to summon more witnesses including the embalmer.

“They are still looking for some mobile phones, which will be subjected to forensic examination,” Guevarra added.

READ: After flurry of PNP pronouncements, NBI 'taking time' on Dacera case

The DOJ chief deemed the Philippine National Police’s investigation “not thorough enough” prompting him to order the NBI to conduct its separate and parallel probe into Dacera’s death.

The Philippine National Police has previously admitted to lapses in its investigation into Dacera’s death, including how Dacera’s body was embalmed first before an autopsy was conducted.

Police Maj. Gen. Marni Marcos, who serves as the chief of the PNP's Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, in a Senate hearing in January that the medico-legal officers were just following new guidelines crafted amid the pandemic.

“Initially, he said that the victim had travel in other places. She came from a hotel that was a quarantine hotel… So under the new procedures, he conducted what we call soft embalming. We're still investigating if there were new procedures he wasn't able to do," he said in mixed Filipino and English. 

Different findings possible

In last week’s hearing, the PNP had submitted the medico-legal report to the prosecution on January 27, which ruled out homicide as cause of Dacera’s death.

“[T]he aortic aneurysm is considered a medical condition. Rape and/or drug overdose will not result to the development of aneurysms,” the report signed by Police. Lt. Gen. Joseph Palmero read.

Guevarra said there is still a possibility of divergence between the two agencies’ findings, although he refused to be specific, explaining he has yet to receive the NBI’s full report.

Should that happen, Guevarra said the investigating prosecutor may conduct a clarificatory hearing and summon representatives of the PNP and NBI to find out the basis of their findings.

“I suppose the investigating prosecutor can determine which will be given more weight, if there is probable cause on what the Dacera family had filed,” he added.

Guevarra stressed that the basic issue is whether the crime of rape with homicide transpired, and the investigating prosecutor will resolve this.

The 11 named respondents in the case, companions of Dacera on the night before she was found unconscious in Makati hotel bath tub, had submitted their counter-affidavits on Wednesday.

The complainants will file their Reply-Affidavit, which comments on the respondents’ defenses, on February 11. — with reports from Franco Luna

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