De Lima: Vhong Navarro not a flight risk

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MANILA -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is not yet inclined to order immigration officers to check if actor and television host Vhong Navarro will leave the Philippines to possibly avoid prosecution for a rape charge.

De Lima said Wednesday she will carefully study the request of the camp of rape complainant Deniece Cornejo to issue a lookout bulletin order (LBO) against Navarro.

"I'm not yet convinced at this point that Vhong is a flight risk since he is still at the hospital and he is a complainant in several cases against Deniece and Cedric Lee," she told reporters.

Cornejo’s camp had asked De Lima to direct the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to monitor Navarro's movements as she did last week against Cornejo, Lee and three others. The Justice chief said, though, that an LBO cannot just be issued to anyone.

De Lima was confident that Lee has the "means, motives and the opportunity" to flee the country and evade prosecution for charges filed by Navarro, who was beat up by the businessman's male friends for allegedly attempting to rape Cornejo at a condominium unit in Taguig City on January 22.

Lee, Cornejo and six others were facing charges of serious illegal detention, serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, illegal arrest and blackmail at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which recently consolidated these with the rape complaint.

A three-member panel of prosecutors will begin its preliminary investigation on the complaints on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also busy gathering evidence and statements from the parties involved.

On Monday, the NBI found no damage to furniture and appliances inside the unit where the mauling took place, contrary to Lee's statement that Navarro was willing to pay P1 million to replace the damaged items as a result of the incident.

Bloodstains were also seen on the sofa, which will be examined by the NBI forensic team. (Sunnex)

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