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Gone too soon, or embalmed too soon?

Both medical experts agree that our system of handling bodies from crime scenes had also become a problem, especially since cadavers are just brought to a funeral parlor, instead of a laboratory.

Manny Angeles

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With its many twists and turns, the Christine Dacera case is turning out to be like driving through the newly opened Skyway 3 for the first time.

The trip is fast, with commuters enjoying the ride, but seemingly not knowing where the road will lead them in the end. Despite minor choke points at the exits, it’s still a fascinating trip though. And the public is hooked, following each new revelation in the Dacera case, like a telenovela.

In fact, we won’t be surprised if one of these days, the celebrated case would find its way in the movies, mimicking past true-to-life stories and grisly deaths that went mostly unsolved.

You can start by choosing your actors for the movie, which we could probably entitle, “Rape or Slay: The Unsolved Case of Christine Dacera.” Or the more creative producer could go for “Gone Too Soon, Embalmed Too Soon.”

By the way, please exclude Kris Aquino or Janice de Belen for the lead role. They’re already Hall of Famers as far as criminal melodramas are concerned.

Let’s see a fresh face for this one please. Probably as young as the victim herself. As for those who will portray the gay friends who were with the late flight attendant at the ill-fated hotel, there are many to choose from. Take your pick.

Just think of the Chop-Chop Lady, the Myrna Diones story, the Vizconde massacre to name a few true-to-life productions that hit the big screen.

Unsolved crimes are a dime a dozen in this godforsaken country. It has become so common that they have become fodder for tabloids and lately, social media, with netizens, or just about anybody, giving their two cents’ worth, mostly silly and absurd.

At the rate mysterious cases are perpetuated here, the Philippines has gained that unenviable reputation as a nation with probably the greatest number of unsolved crimes. They are then eventually produced as mystery films that still leave the moviegoers hankering for a resolution and left to decide in the end.

Media, for its part, particularly in the ’90s, at the height of these true-to-life crime stories, has this penchant of sensationalizing crimes, transforming dastardly acts into box office success, never mind if they only add to the noise instead of actually shedding light on the cases.

With the unsolicited publicity generated by the media, producers then pounce on the opportunity to cash in on the case at hand and laugh all the way to the bank. Never mind if the film’s denouement is unsatisfying or ambiguous. It’s a recipe for a Part 2 or a sequel, producers would likely say.

If there’s anything that the Christine Dacera case and all other unsolved crimes before it has brought to the fore, it is the lack of proper criminal investigation procedure that leaves nothing to chance or hearsay.
It likewise showed the sorry state of forensic pathology in the Philippines, which other more advanced countries are using to pin down the perpetrators. Our police and crime investigators would only have to remember the word KISS to guide them in this pursuit. It means Keep It Scientific, Stupid.

Think about Bones, that American crime drama television series based on forensic anthropology and forensic archeology with each episode focusing on an FBI case concerning the mystery behind human remains. You’d be amazed at how science can unravel such mysteries.

Here in the Philippines, despite the rising number of crimes that occur every day, we still rely heavily on the medico-legal system, especially since we lack the proper experts to handle the death investigations. There is no institution that offers proper education on this discipline.

In order to be formally educated and be trained in forensic pathology, one still needs to travel to another country. Some of those who do get their education no longer come back due to the lack of opportunities in their own homeland.

Would you believe there are only two forensic pathologists here?

Drs. Ma. Cecilia Lim and Raquel Fortun, who studied abroad and came back to practice their noble profession, can only rue the day when they will have to retire and nobody gets to take over the reins.
Aside from the death investigation system, both medical experts agree that our system of handling bodies from crime scenes had also become a problem, especially since cadavers are just brought to a funeral parlor, instead of a laboratory for further investigation.
“Those are bodies of evidence. They tell a lot of what happened, what drinks were consumed, what drugs were taken. You don’t just embalm them right away and erase any trace of evidence as in the case of Dacera,” Fortun explained.
The country’s justice system, Lim says, relies heavily on witness testimonies when science could be used as an effective evidence in the case.
Our two experts are right as rain. A change in the police’s death investigation system is probably due, before we get bombarded by too many crime dramas.

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