Arrest warrants out vs Navarro's attackers

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Monday, April 14, 2014

MANILA -- The Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court issued an arrest warrant last Friday against Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo and five others for the grave coercion case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in relation to the mauling of television host-actor Vhong Navarro on January 22.

Branch 74 Judge Bernard Bernal has set a P12,000 bail for each of the accused, which also include Lee's sister Bernice, Simeon Raz, Jose Paolo Calma, Jed Fernandez and Ferdinand Guerrero, who was not allowed to depart for Hong Kong by immigration officers early Monday due to his alleged participation in the crime.

In its resolution, the DOJ said Navarro is a victim of grave coercion when he was forced to admit in a police blotter that he attempted to rape Cornejo, a model and stylist.

Navarro's camp is still waiting for the Taguig Regional Trial Court branch 271 to come out with arrest warrants in the case of serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.

In a chance interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima deemed Guerrero's scuttled trip as an attempt to evade prosecution from cases pending before the courts.

Guerrero was supposed to board Cebu Pacific flight 5J-108 at 4:43 a.m. but the Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel blocked his trip due to his inclusion in the lookout bulletin order (LBO) issued by de Lima on January 29.

“Guerrero was referred to secondary inspection and was not cleared for departure upon coordination with concerned government agencies,” said lawyer Elaine Tan, technical assistant at the Office of BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison.

An LBO does not stop individuals from leaving the Philippines since it is merely a notice that a person or persons is/are attempting to depart.

However, De Lima said Guerrero and his co-accused cannot easily go abroad now that cases had already been filed in court.

She added that the purpose of Guerrero’s trip has no “color of legitimacy,” as she reminded other respondents in the case to seek permission from either the DOJ-National Prosecution Service or the court.

Otherwise, they may face detention for attempting to obstruct justice.

“This is a criminal offense and therefore, if you are attempting to leave, you can be arrested and subjected to inquest proceedings. That is our course of action at this point while waiting for the court to issue a hold departure order or an arrest warrant,” De Lima told reporters.

Earlier, a television report said a certain Cedric Lee booked a flight for Dubai on April 12 but it was subsequently cancelled.

Lee, whose group beat up Navarro at a condominium unit in Taguig, had said he has no plan to leave the country and run away from the cases.

Prosecutors are set to oppose Lee camp’s motion for judicial determination for probable cause in a hearing at the Taguig RTC branch 271 on Tuesday.

The motion has to be resolved first before the court can decide on the issuance of the arrest warrants and HDOs. (Virgil Lopez/FP/Sunnex)

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