DOJ files cases vs Lee, Cornejo for mauling Navarro

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

MANILA (3rd Update) -- Government prosecutors filed serious illegal detention with demand for ransom and grave coercion cases on Thursday against model-stylist Deniece Cornejo, businessman Cedric Lee and five others allegedly involved in the mauling of actor-television host Vhong Navarro on January 22.

The other respondents in the cases raffled off to Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes of the Taguig Regional Trial Court branch 271 are Lee's sister Bernice, Simeon Raz, Jose Paolo Calma, Ferdinand Guerrero and Jed Fernandez, according to Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.

In a resolution dated April 4, the three-member investigating panel found probable cause to pursue the charges in court because they were convinced that Navarro had been deprived of liberty and sustained serious injuries at the hands of Lee's group.

Lee claimed that they beat up Navarro after they caught the actor attempting to rape Cornejo inside her condominium unit at Forbeswood Heights in Taguig.

But the panel thought otherwise as it junked Cornejo's counter charge of rape.

Prosecutors noted that no rape could have taken place since nobody heard Cornejo scream for help even if her door was left open, she had no bruises and did not undergo medical examination to prove her point.

"It is extremely difficult to comprehend how such scenario of shouting, struggling and running to the lobby of the Forbeswood Heights could have escaped the ears of the people in the neighboring units or in the halls of the said condominium; and that her actuation after the tormenting experience, when she admitted going out for dinner with friends, is to a certain degree incredible as it is contrary to human frailty," the DOJ said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier said footage taken from the condominium bolstered Navarro's version of events as Cornejo went out of the unit after the actor arrived at her place.

Navarro, who recently resumed his hosting duties on ABS-CBN variety program "It's Showtime" following a two-month leave, even branded his ordeal a set up.

The charges of serious physical injuries, grave threats and illegal arrest will make up the serious illegal detention case, which is a non-bailable offense.

The DOJ included the element of ransom in the serious illegal detention case in light of Navarro’s admission that Lee's group asked him to pay as much as P2 million to cover the supposed damage to Cornejo's unit after the incident.

“[T]he panel opined that damages are personal in nature…and that this fact only adds to the probability that the negotiation for damages or the money asked from Navarro, in favor of Cornejo, was indeed premeditated,” the DOJ said.

Navarro is also a victim of grave coercion, the DOJ said, when he was forced to admit in a police blotter that he sexually abused Cornejo.

Blackmail charges against Lee and six others, however, were dropped for lack of evidence.

The same resolution cleared Forbeswood guards Maximo Meregildo, Romeo Nevado, Jeffry Viniegas and Roderick Garbin of obstruction of justice charges filed by the Taguig police.

According to the police, the Megaforce Security Agency failed to report the incident, did not cooperate in the police investigation, hid vital papers/evidence/records and gave false or incomplete information.

The actor's lawyer, Alma Mallonga, was not immediately available for comment.

Lee and his company Izumo Contractors are also facing a tax evasion complaint before the DOJ for allegedly not remitting P194.47 million to the government from 2006 to 2009. (Sunnex)

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