‘We are just starting’: DOJ stresses Dacera case not dismissed as search for more evidence continues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 7)— The Justice Department on Thursday said the case of the controversial death of flight attendant Christine Angelica Dacera is not closed or dismissed.

“We are not dismissing the case, just to be clear about it, we are just converting this into a regular preliminary investigation,” DOJ Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.Nagu-umpisa pa lang kami. We are just starting.”

The three respondents earlier arrested in connection with the case of Dacera, who was found dead in a hotel room on New Year’s Day, were released Wednesday following an order from the Makati City prosecutor’s office. The directive noted that more evidence is needed to establish if the incident was a rape-slay.

TIMELINE: The Christine Dacera Case

Malcontento also believes the rape with homicide complaints earlier lodged against the respondents were “premature.”

“If it is sufficient, we could have dismissed it outright or decided to file the case,” he noted. “So insofar as our prosecutors are concerned, by way of procedures, it’s incomplete, premature.”

“We cannot file homicide, murder, rape, or rape with homicide with the existing evidence presented so far by the PNP and their witnesses," he added.

According to Malcontento, the police have so far submitted with their complaint Dacera’s death certificate and medico-legal report. The prosecutor general added authorities are waiting for additional evidence, including possible toxicology and DNA results.

He assured the 23-year-old’s family that the investigation, set on January 13, will be swift, and that “justice will be delivered.”

“In the same manner, the 11 respondents, we will afford them all their rights under the law, and we will give them all the chances for them to defend their rights and their stories on this matter,” Malcontento said.

RELATED: Suspect in Dacera case speaks up: I’m not hiding

Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc is pushing for a House probe on the Philippine National Police’s supposed mishandling of Dacera’s case.

“The unverified and inaccurate information and the premature conclusions of the PNP over Dacera’s death do not help in resolving the case,” read House Resolution 1458. “Rather, it resulted to trial by publicity, confusion most especially among Dacera’s family and friends, and undue stress and anxiety to various parties dragged into the case.”

The resolution also seeks the recommendation of measures for concerned agencies to conduct a thorough investigation and "ensure the fair and competent resolution of the case.”