Fortun quits as Lee’s spokesman, says PH is ‘not ready to be fair’

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The country is not ready for legal concepts in the Vhong Navarro case, says Raymond Fortun

RAYMOND FORTUN. The lawyer resigns after 12 days as Lee's spokesman. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines  Raymond Fortun has resigned as spokesman to Cedric Lee, who is allegedly one of the main culprits in the controversial Vhong Navarro mauling incident last January 22, reported Buzz ng Bayan.

Fortun had only been signed on as Lee’s spokesman for 12 days, before he decided to resign because of a breach in their agreement, as well as public backlash he said he and his clients received.

In his time as Lee’s spokesman, Fortun was tasked to become his client’s media contact person in legal and factual issues. In a text message sent to The Philippine Star, Fortun clarified that he only serves as a spokesperson to Lee, not his lawyer.

In a letter addressed to Lee, released by Buzz ng Bayan on Sunday, February 16, Fortun, said Lee’s party breached one of their agreements when Cornejo aired a statement without the approval of their legal counsel or spokesman.

“Together with this mandate was an agreement that no statements shall be released by anybody from your group without the consent/approval of your counsels and/or spokesman. This has been breached last night,” he said.

In an interview with ANC, Fortun said this statement was Cornejo’s reaction to CCTV footage, which showed Lee kissing her cheeks in the elevator. Cornejo told GMA7 24 Oras that there was no malice in Lee’s actions.

Navarro claimed he was mauled and threatened by Lee and company in Cornejo’s condominium unit in January, in an attempt to extort money for him. Meanwhile, Cornejo accused navarro of attempted rape, saying that Navarro was beat-up by Lee and her other friends as a form of defense.

Public backlash

The highly publicized case has generated strong public opinion, with many antagonizing Lee, Cornejo, and company.

Fortun said he had served Lee “even at peril to [his] own reputation as a lawyer,” given that their camp had been on the receiving end of backlash and negative publicity, and that he had hoped to educate the public on the matter.

“My personal desire to help you notwithstanding the adverse publicity that you have been receiving, is precisely to to educate the public on the need to temper their emotions in light of your Constitutional rights to due process, to counsel of your choice, to present a valid and lawful defense, and to confront your accusers in the proper legal setting.”

In the 12 days he had served as Lee’s spokesman, Fortun said, he found that the country is yet to be ready for the legal concepts present in the case. Fortun said “inaccurate reportage and the unprofessional actions of certain law enforcement agencies” are to blame.

Fortun also took to Facebook to air his sentiments, saying he realized that the country’s current laws are not enough to protect the accused as well as their representatives. He said “even the worst criminal is entitled to be represented by a lawyer.”

“All I wanted was for people to be fair, to let the evidence come out before they rendered a guilty verdict. More importantly, i just wanted people to respect the accused’s Constitutional rights to due process. But… this country is just not ready to be fair.”


Protection against ‘media frenzy’

In the letter to Lee, he also announced plans brought about by the lessons he said he learned while serving as Lee’s spokesman.

He said, he plans on asking Congress to enact legislation so all persons facing criminal prosecution may be informed of their rights before they are interviewed by the media.

“People accused of crimes also have rights which need to be protected against media frenzy and unfair pre-judgments.”

Fortun added that he plans to ask the Supreme Court to resolve issues in the constitutionality of the Anti-Cybercrime Law. This he said, will address cyber-libel in the country.

“People do have the right to express their opinions about issues, but such freedom does not grant a license to bully, hurl invectives or otherwise destroy one’s reputation without factual basis.”

The case continues

The case is currently being handled by the National Bureau of Investigation, which charged Lee and Cornejo’s camp with serious illegal detention, serious physical injuries, grave threats, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, and threatening to publish and offer to prevent such publication for a compensation.

In turn, Cornejo filed a rape case to the Department of Justice against Navarro. According to ANC, Cornejo is set to file a motion for reconsideration after her motion for a Temporary Protection Order for Navarro was rejected by the court.

Two weeks after being severely injured by the incident, Navarro was discharged from the hospital. After which, the actor went straight to the DOJ to swear on the truth of his statement.–

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