A flight attendant who died after being found unconscious in a hotel bathtub following a New Year's party may have been raped and multiple men have been arrested, authorities in the Philippines said.
Eleven men now face a provisional charge of rape with homicide in the death of 23-year-old Christine Angelica Dacera, who ultimately succumbed at a Makati City hospital.
Makati City police chief Col. Harold Depositar told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Dacera had been covered in bruises, contusions and scratches on her arms and legs and had signs of a sexual assault.
“The victim had lacerations and sperm in her genitalia,” Depositar said.
Police have charged all 11 men who were at the New Year’s party—which took place in two adjoining hotel rooms—with the provisional homicide charges.
“Only three of them were Dacera’s friends. The others were practically strangers to her, as they were only known to her three friends,” Despositar said, adding that the charges against the men were provisional because authorities were still waiting for autopsy and toxicology reports to provide a clearer picture of how Dacera died.
Brick Reyes, a lawyer and spokesperson for the Dacera family, said at a press conference Tuesday that Dacera and her friends and fellow coworkers from Philippine Airlines had planned to celebrate the new year at a hotel room in the City Grand Garden Hotel Makati, The Philippine Star reports.
Dacera began the party in high spirits, with the flight attendant referring to those she was with as “my loves” on social media.
But as the morning of Jan. 1 progressed, Reyes said Dacera was already feeling the effects of “intoxication” and “complained more particularly that her drinks appeared to have been spiked.”
Reyes said that when Dacera collapsed, those with her tried to perform CPR to revive her before taking her to a local hospital; however, police stated she had been found in an empty bathtub by hotel staff.
"At past noontime of January 1, the victim was found unconscious in the bathtub of her hotel room. Hotel staff performed CPR on the victim to revive her but failed, and later rushed her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead by doctors," the Philippine National Police said in a statement, according to The Philippine Star.
Gregorio de Guzman, one of the 11 suspects in the case, told ABS-CBN News in an interview after Dacera’s death that he was gay and that everyone around her at the time of the party had been a member of the LGBT community.
“Every one of them was gay,” he said, according to a translation provided by the news outlet. “My impression of her is she likes to hang out with us, LGBT members. She’s comfortable with us. The entire time she was really comfortable with every one of us.”
Authorities have three of the suspects in custody, while the others remain at large.
The exact cause of death in the case remains unclear.
An initial medical report obtained by CNN Philippines listed Dacera’s cause of death as a “ruptured aortic aneurysm,” however, the family has requested a second autopsy in the case.
“They said she died of natural causes, a ruptured aortic aneurysm which appears in the certificate of death, but which does not include the other injuries she sustained,” Reyes told CNN Philippines. “It is not complete as far as we are concerned, that is why we requested for another autopsy.”
Officials have urged the public not to jump to any conclusions in the ongoing investigation.
"Speculations are freely aired that may not jibe with what the real cause of death is and the circumstances surrounding it. Since the investigation on Christine’s death is ongoing, we advise those who are concerned with the case to reserve their judgments until all the facts are in," presidential legal council Salvador Panelo also said in a statement, according to The Philippine Star.
In an emotional press conference Tuesday, Dacera’s mom, Sharon Dacera, asked for help from President Rodrigo Duterte in finding justice for her daughter, saying that as a mom she was “just an ordinary person.”
“That is why I want to come out in the open because I don’t want that somebody will be a victim by this kind of brutality, barbaric,” she said, according to The Philippines Daily Inquirer.
Sharon Dacera said she hopes those responsible for her daughter’s death will be punished.
“You treated her like a pig,” she said. “I don’t want this to happen to another woman who will be treated like that. That is why I will fight for my daughter’s case.”
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