Three men who were detained over the death of flight attendant Christine Dacera walked free late on Wednesday and maintained their innocence.
John Dela Serna, Rommel Galido and John Paul Halili were released from the Makati City police station after state prosecutors ordered a reinvestigation of the case.
"Sana, i-clear mo ang mind ng mom mo na wala kaming kasalalan dito. Alam mo gaano ka namain kamahal nang sobra-sobra," Dela Serna told television cameras, addressing Dacera.
Prosecutors ordered a preliminary investigation or PI. Under Philippine law, a PI will determine if a complaint filed by law enforcers has "probable cause" to merit elevating the charge to the courts. Makati police accused the trio of rape with homicide.
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The three, all wearing face masks and face shields, said public attention on the case has taken its toll on their work and their families. They said Christine was like a sister to them.
Dacera was found dead in the bathtub of her Makati City hotel room on New Year's Day. According to Dacera's family and lawyer, the flight attendant meant to party with just three companions on New Year's Eve but the number swelled after midnight. Up to 17, including Dacera, according to the family lawyer.
An initial police examination pointed to an aneurysm or swollen artery as the cause of death. However, her family said she was drugged and sexually abused and sought a second autopsy, results of which are due out next week.
According to the Makati prosecutor's resolution, "there are certain matters that need to be clarified to determine the participation and culpability of each respondent for the alleged rape and killing..."
Evidence of Dacera's cause of death are "insufficient," prosecutors said. The family had said that bruises on her arms and legs pointed to resistance during sexual assault.
Dacera was last seen alive at 6:23 a.m. of Jan. 1, based on CCTV footage, according to the prosecutors.