THE death of flight attendant and UP Mindanao alumna Christine Dacera gave us a sense of collective grief. But when police turned this into a rape-slay probe and the media played up this angle, our emotions went through a roller coaster.
We were made to believe there was foul play, as police showed sketchy evidence that played to that: Christine's body found dead in a bathtub after a New Year's party, CCTV footages of her in a happy state with two male companions, and initial findings of cuts and bruises on limbs and semen. Add to that an interview of a mother crying for justice.
This formula fed to the stream of social media outrage that has become our way of calling for blood. What was shocking for me was to see a website posting full bio data of some of the alleged suspects. Equally worrisome as women advocates and friends of Christine point out was how people blamed her for her death.
But when the autopsy report leaked on social media that refuted the police's claim and some of the alleged suspects were cleared and said they were gay, all that we believed in has been cast to doubt.
When forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun reacted to this case, she ripped the report as full of holes and lectured us to how poor our police and forensic investigation system is. This is no longer an
episode of CSI or Law and Order where we play police and forensics that piece together a puzzle to solve a mysterious death. This is real life. And real life shows a lot of things bungled up.
Pulitzer winning journalist Manny Mogato is right to call on journalists to be more careful not to report speculations made by police and try to dig up more facts based on evidences. He reminds us that this is the same police force that has been doing shortcuts in investigations, conjuring "nanlaban" narrative against drug suspects. This is the same police that has planted evidence to detain activists and independent media practitioners to justify their detention.
But the problem also lies with us, we fall to that tendency to believe the first post or comment made on an issue, regardless if it is verified fact or not. Social media is weaponized to rile up our emotions, enforce our biases, play up bloodlust and demand shortcuts that we forget that the way for closure and justice is looking at the body of evidence.
But the bigger blame, as National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Nonoy Espina rightly points out, is the PNP committing more injustice to all: to Christine, her family, her gay friends who became suspects, and to us the public who swallowed this badly written script of blame and hate.
January 08, 2021
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