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Detained suspects in Christine Dacera case ordered released

The Makati City Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday ordered the release for further investigation of the three suspects who have been detained in connection with the death of flight attendant Christine Dacera.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the local prosecutor's office said the case was referred for a preliminary investigation to determine whether Dacera was raped and/or killed and, if so, whether the identified suspects were responsible.

John Pascual Dela Serna III, Rommel Galido, and John Paul Halili were ordered released from detention. They face a criminal complaint for rape with homicide.

The complaint against several other suspects who are at large will also undergo the same preliminary investigation set for January 13.

In preliminary investigations, prosecutors determine whether there is sufficient basis to file charges against the respondents in court.

Dacera, 23, was found dead in the bathtub of a Makati hotel room on January 1. She had checked in to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends.

Her reported cause of death was a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Her family suspects she was drugged and sexually abused.

Unconvinced that Dacera had died of natural causes, her family has sought another autopsy from an independent medico-legal officer.

The National Bureau of Investigation is also assisting the Philippine National Police in determining Dacera's "true cause of death," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday.

One of the suspects denied the rape allegation and said they did not leave Dacera "until the end."

Inquest resolution

In a three-page inquest resolution, Assistant City Prosecutor Joan Bolina-Santillan said some matters remained unclear.

"At this point, the pieces of evidence so far submitted are insufficient to establish that she was sexually assaulted or raped. And, if sexual assault/rape was committed, who is/are the person/s responsible?" the prosecutor wrote.

In the same way, she said the evidence was not enough to prove the "exact cause of death," whether this was because of the alleged rape, and, if so, whether the respondents were responsible.

She also pointed out that police have not yet submitted the results of DNA analysis, toxicology/chemical analysis and histopath examination.

"Hence, a conduct of preliminary investigation is necessary," Santillan wrote.

The resolution was approved by City Prosecutor Dindo Venturanza.

Philippine National Police chief Police General Debold Sinas on Tuesday told the suspects to surrender in 72 hours or face a manhunt.

PNP spokesman Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana later said that the PNP would wait for the inquest resolution and not just arrest the suspects without a warrant.

Only courts can issue warrants of arrest, and whether the case will reach the courts will depend on how prosecutors will decide the pending complaint following the preliminary investigation. -NB, GMA News