‘Immediate overhaul’ of anti-rape law pushed; police under fire over Dacera case


GET IN LINE Persons of interest in the rape-slay of flight attendant Christine Dacera appear at the National Bureau of Investigation where they issued statements on the case on Jan. 14, 2021. Two claimed police “forced” them into making false accusations in exchange for their liberty. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

THE country’s anti-rape law needs “immediate overhaul”, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives said on Thursday.

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun said the current 24-year-old Anti-Rape Law was “significantly deficient and not responsive to present realities and developments”.

“It is a rape law that puts unjust burden on the victims it ought to afford justice to and excludes from the definition of rape certain acts of sexual perversion that are actually tantamount to rape considering the devastation they cause to the victim,” Fortun said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Fortun’s statement comes as Rommel Galido, one of two persons of interest in the death of Christine Dacera, alleged that the Makati police “forced” him to accuse another suspect, Mark Anthony Rosales of spiking the 23-year-old flight attendant’s drink.

“We were forced to say, to point [at] someone in exchange for our liberty,” he said in a press conference in Makati also on Thursday.

Galido said that Dacera did not say that it was Rosales who spiked her drink.

JP Dela Serna, another person of interest, also retracted his previous statement, which pointed to Rosales as a suspect.

Lawyer Abby Portugal said her clients were “pressured” by the Makati police.

Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. National Capital Police Office (NCRPO) chief, said Makati police denied the allegations.

“Well as per information coming from the chief of police ng Makati eh wala naman ganun nangyari (no such thing happened),” Danao told reporters on Thursday.

The NCRPO chief said “perjury” charges could be filed against the respondents because they were “under oath” when they made their statements.

Some of the respondents went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday to undergo drug tests.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said the NBI has extracted 100 milliliters of urine from Dacera in a second autopsy.

Racquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist, questioned the NBI’s findings.

Bakit ni-report ng unang doktor na walang laman [bladder], yung second one naman sabi meron … sino sa inyo ang nagsasabi ng totoo?” Fortun said in a dzBB interview. (Why did the first doctor report that Dacera’s bladder was empty, then the second one said it wasn’t. Who is telling the truth?)

Fortun said that the liquid extracted from Dacera could have been “contaminated” because her body had been embalmed.

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin, in response, said he does “not want to react to the comment of a person who is not privy to the investigation.”

In a later tweet, Fortun responded: “In forensic work you [are] expect[ed] to be questioned.”

Dacera, who attended a New Year’s Eve party at the City Garden Hotel in Makati City, was declared dead on arrival at a hospital on January 1. The certificate of death indicated that she died of aneurysm as there was no semen found in her remains based on an autopsy report.

Review of anti-rape law

Dacera’s family asked  for a review of the law.

“We already passed in the House of Representatives on Third and Final Reading House Bill No. 7836 providing for stronger protection against rape and sexual abuse and increasing the age for determining statutory rape.  This bill is a product of extensive and inclusive consultations with stakeholders, advocates and the concerned government agencies. We now call on the Senate to tackle and approve the measure,” Rep. Fortun said.

“Aside from increasing the age of sexual consent to 16 years of age, our bill also broadens the definition of rape to cover acts of perversion for sexual gratification not covered under the present Anti-Rape Law.  It also now includes a person causing another to perform acts of rape even if he or she does not directly participate therein”, he said.

Fortun also said that the “use of drugs in the determination of probable cause is covered by”  the bill. He said that they included the employment of means to deprive a person of reason or render a person unconscious and that “[t]his provision covers introduction of drugs, alcohol and any other toxic substances as a means to perpetrate rape”.

The lawmaker added that the bill has a provision removing “the burden of proving lack of consent from the victim.”

Based on the copy of House Bill 7836 accessible through the House’s wesbite, the bill adds “[a] new Article 266-D” to Act 3815”.

This proposed article reads, “In all cases of rape, lack of consent is presumed. The absence or lack of physical overt act of resistance to the commission of rape shall not be construed as consent.”

Based on the same copy, the bill also adds “[a] new Article 266-C” to Act 3815. This proposed article defines grooming as “a predatory conduct, act, or pattern of acts, of establishing a relationship, trust, or emotional connection personally, or via electronic and other similar devices, by any person with a minor under” 18 years of age “or any of the members of the family, guardian or caregiver of the minor for the purpose of perpetrating sexual abuse or exploitation.” This proposed article also states that “the person responsible for the grooming shall be liable for rape” when grooming results in “the consummation of any of the acts of sexual abuse or exploitation under Article 266-A”.

House Bill 7836 amends Article 266-A of Act 3815.

“The bill also expands the  list of persons who may file complaints for rape and prohibits amicable settlements and affidavits of desistance”, Fortun said.

“The bill also ensures the protection of the privacy and identity of the victims and the confidentiality of rape proceedings to embolden victims to seek justice”, he added.

“The Senate for its part has 9 pending bills about and related to rape. It is our hope the Senate will adopt HB 7836 as their working document and then incorporate key provisions of the nine Senate bills they have,” Fortun said.

“The Anti-Rape Law needs immediate overhaul. We appeal to the Senate to…approve the measure in the next few weeks so that the same may be transmitted to the President before the end of the current regular session”, he said.

Suspended

The Department of Tourism (DoT) on Thursday suspended the certificate of authority to operate by the City Garden Hotel in Makati after it “was found to have misrepresented itself to the public as being allowed to accommodate guests for leisure or staycation purposes despite being a quarantine facility”.

In a statement, DoT also ordered the suspension of the hotel’s accreditation for six months and told the hotel to pay a P10,000 fine.

The hearing of the case was rescheduled to January 27 as investigators are still awaiting the results of forensic tests. JOHN ERIC MENDOZA

 

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