DOJ to hear Navarro complaint on Valentine’s Day

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Monday, February 3, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Actor Vhong Navarro, model/stylist Deniece Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee may face off at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on February 14, Valentine’s Day, as the investigating panel will hear the actor’s complaint regarding the alleged mauling incident last month.

Aside from Cornejo and Lee, the panel also required the businessman’s sister Bernice, Ferdinand Guerrero and Zimmer Rance to attend the first hearing on the preliminary investigation into the charges filed by Navarro against them.

They are currently facing charges of serious illegal detention, serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, illegal arrest and blackmail for mauling and extorting as much as P2 million from the actor at Cornejo’s condominium unit in Taguig City on January 22.

The respondents were asked to submit a counter-affidavit or joint affidavit which should be personally subscribed to an all-women panel composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Olivia Torrevillas, Hazel Decena-Valdez and Marie Elvira Herrera.

The next hearing is on February 21.

Deniece Cornejo
Deniece Cornejo
Vhong Navarro
Vhong Navarro

It is not yet clear if Cornejo’s counter-charge of rape will be tackled on Valentine’s Day following the decision of Prosecutor General Claro Arellano on Monday to consolidate the complaint with Navarro’s.

Arellano, who directed the Taguig Prosecutor’s Office to forward the records of the rape complaint, found it practical to have a unified probe, considering that this "arose from one and the same incident, founded on the same factual and legal issues and involving the same parties."

Cornejo’s lawyer Howard Calleja disagreed, saying the charges filed by Navarro and his client were not the same.

“We should have been the given the opportunity to explain our side. I just learned it (consolidation) through media,” said Calleja, who was at the DOJ to deliver a letter requesting Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to sit down with his clients.

De Lima talked with Navarro’s lawyers and manager Chito Roño about the incident on January 27.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), an attached agency of the DOJ, then filed complaints along with Navarro’s legal counsel, against Lee and company the next day.

Navarro claimed he was beaten up by around six to seven men when he visited Cornejo in her condominium unit, denying Lee's story that he was mauled for raping the 22-year-old lady.

Footage taken by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the Forbeswood Heights bolstered Navarro's claim, the NBI said last week, as Cornejo went out of the unit after the comedian arrived at her place.

Lee earlier said he and his friends mauled Navarro after he came upon Navarro trying to rape his friend. However, the footage suggested that Cornejo was not at the unit when the alleged rape took place.

Cornejo and Lee have since ignored invitations from the NBI to shed light on the incident.

Also asked to appear at the NBI were Lee's suspected companions JP Calma and Jed Fernandez and Soledad Ramos, the owner of the unit where the incident happened.

Navarro also surrendered his mobile phone to investigators so that they can reconstruct the exchange of text messages between him and Cornejo prior to the assault.

Cornejo, the Lee siblings, Guerrero and Rance had already been placed under the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) lookout list.

They will not be barred from leaving the country, however, since the DOJ's authority to issue a watchlist order against suspected criminals has been clipped for the meantime by the Supreme Court (SC).

The NBI said it is important that their flight may at least be monitored as there can be a possibility that the respondents will "frustrate the ends of justice."

Cornejo and Lee denied reports that they were set to fly to Singapore on February 6.

Meanwhile, police visibility will be maintained near the house of Navarro security amid threats to his life and his family, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Reuben Theodore Sindac said Monday.

"Maintained pa muna natin 'yung mga pulis na pinakalat natin malapit sa bahay niya at kung nasaan si Vhong para sa seguridad nila pero we can expect na i-increase ito," he said via text message.

In a meeting in Camp Crame last Friday, Navarro through his lawyer Dennis Manalo and talent manager Chito Roño, made a request to the Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas and Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina for additional security.

Manalo said told Roxas the comedian has been receiving death threats since he started discussing about the incident on television. (With Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

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