The death of 23-year-old Philippine Airlines flight attendant Christine Dacera gripped the nation this past week. The gruesome manner by which her body was found disgusted the nation. Thousands, including celebrities Bianca Gonzales and Kakie Pangilinan, quickly joined the online lynch mob by posting photos of Dacera’s 11 companions on that fateful night and calling for their arrest.
All that was known at the time were reports that she (1) was found dead in a hotel room, (2) had bruises in several parts of her body, (3) lacerations and semen in her vagina, and (4) had traces of the illegal drug ecstasy in her veins. It wasn’t even clear if the last two were true, as the autopsy report came only a couple of days later, and a toxicology report is still in the works.
But assuming all four claims are correct, it seems that most Filipinos forgot that the accused always enjoys the benefit of the doubt.
Dacera’s death can either be accidental or intentional, and there’s still no evidence pointing to either. The lacerations open the possibility of rape, but such may still happen even during consensual sex, and the same goes for fluids. Bruises may suggest a struggle, but she was drunk and drugged so that she might have acquired them through a loss of balance. And yes, there was ecstasy, but there’s still no evidence showing she was forced to take it, or she willingly did.
It was obviously premature to judge the case. That’s why I didn’t name names while everybody else did.
Despite the lack of evidence, many of us, including celebrities with multi-million followings, posted photos of Dacera’s eleven companions and called for their arrest. They said they’re rapist-murderers, even if the evidence is still far from conclusive.
Then additional information came in.
The lacerations have healed, suggesting Dacera got them way before that night. She had a heart aneurysm. CCTV footage shows the victim bantering with friends then passionately kissing a man at past 3 am, indicating no struggle. Three of the suspects even accompanied Dacera to the hospital and filed a police report, so the three didn’t flee. Several of the suspects are even known to be confessed gay men. Not bisexual, but gay.
Arising from these developments is an alternative explanation. Aside from the Rape-Slay Theory, another plausible explanation would be Dacera simply suffering from a freak accident, which may have been exacerbated by her intake of drugs and alcohol.
I believe the online lynch mob realized that too, so the retractions happened.
The celebs deleted their image posts and apologized, but not without blaming the Philippine National Police. While it’s true that PNP chief Debold Sinas has been making very confusing statements, I think we can all agree that we are ultimately responsible for what we type on our phones.
Did the PNP force Gonzales and Pangilinan to post the photos? No, it was the two’s decision to post them, and they did the posting themselves.
For one, Pangilinan is one of the staunchest critics of the administration, but she took the PNP’s statements hook, line, and sinker?
Whatever happened to critical thinking, Kakie?
I hope that these celebrities publicize their retractions with the same magnitude that they publicized their misinformation. We are talking about 11 young men who still have their whole lives ahead of them, 11 young men who have been prematurely judged guilty despite the glaring lack of evidence.
This is not to say that all of the 11 are innocent, but our laws presume so in the absence of conclusive evidence to the contrary. And even if we assume that some of them are guilty, what happens to those who will be acquitted? The innocent among them will have to deal with the stigma for the rest of their lives.
Imagine one of the guys needs a job, then a professional headhunter Googles him and learns about his supposed involvement in the case? What if he goes on a first date and the girl finds out? Will his friends and acquaintances distance themselves just to avoid the stigma?
I find it utterly ironic that Gonzales and Pangilinan, who have been vocal advocates against misinformation, engaged in blatant misinformation themselves. And when they did realize the mistake, they blamed others for their lack of critical thinking.
With great power comes great responsibility, but I bet these two celebrities never got to watch Spiderman.