crimes in the Philippines

TIMELINE: Vhong Navarro’s serious illegal detention case vs Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo 

Ysa Abad

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TIMELINE: Vhong Navarro’s serious illegal detention case vs Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo 
The decision comes after a 10-year legal case brought about by a violent altercation at Deniece Cornejo's condominium unit in January 2014

MANILA, Philippines – In a ruling on Thursday, May 2, the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) found businessman Cedric Lee, model Deniece Cornejo, Ferdinand Guerrero, and Simeon Palma Ruz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of serious illegal detention for ransom in the case filed by comedian-TV host Vhong Navarro. 

The decision comes after a 10-year legal case, brought about by a violent altercation at Cornejo’s condominium unit in January 2014. The accused can appeal the decision.

Notably, this decision also came a year after the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the rape and acts of lasciviousness charges that Cornejo filed against Navarro. 

Here is an abbreviated timeline of the events:

January 22, 2014

Cornejo files a complaint with the Southern Police District in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, against Navarro for “alleged violation of the crime of attempted rape.”

According to the document, Cornejo – at this time unnamed – is alone in her condominium unit at Forbeswood Heights, Bonifacio Global City, when Navarro arrives at around 10:30 pm. Once inside the unit, Navarro allegedly rapes her. 

The document says the complainant’s friends, including Lee, arrive and arrest Navarro via citizen’s arrest, as the host-actor allegedly raped Cornejo for less than a minute. 

Navarro, who sustains injuries on his face from alleged mauling, is brought to the Southern Police District by the complainant’s friends.

January 24, 2014

Director Chito Roño, Navarro’s talent manager, releases a statement, claiming the host is “a victim of extortion,” though he does not elaborate on it. 

Navarro is admitted to the hospital since his injuries required surgery.

January 28, 2014

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) files a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Cornejo, Lee, and six others involved in the alleged extortion and mauling of Navarro. 

They are accused of serious illegal detention, serious physical injuries, grave threats, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, and threatening to publish and offer to prevent such publication for compensation. 

Also included in the complaint are Bernice Lee, Ferdinand Guerrero, Simeon “Zimmer” Raz, a certain alias “Mike,” and two more unidentified suspects.

February 6, 2014

Navarro is discharged from the hospital.

February 14, 2014

ABS-CBN reports that a new CCTV footage taken during the early hours of January 23 after Lee’s camp brought Navarro to the police shows the businessman apparently kissing Cornejo in a condominium elevator. 

Navarro’s lawyer Alma Mallonga says the footage shows the two being “very affectionate” towards each other. The Navarro camp has claimed that Lee and Cornejo set up the host, as an earlier CCTV footage shows the actor had just arrived at Cornejo’s unit when Lee and his companions arrived and started mauling him. 

April 10, 2014

The DOJ releases a resolution, dismissing Cornejo’s rape complaint. The department’s investigating panel also finds probable cause to indict Lee, his sister Bernice, Cornejo, Raz, JP Calma, Ferdinand Guerrero, and Jed Fernandez.

On the alleged rape, the resolution says Cornejo’s narrative “demonstrates physical improbability.”

April 11, 2014

A Taguig court issues a warrant of arrest for Lee, Cornejo, and the six others who have been charged with serious illegal detention and grave coercion over the mauling of Navarro. 

April 26, 2014

Lee and Raz are arrested in Eastern Samar. Justice secretary Leila de Lima says the NBI has been tracking the two accused, who have “hopped from one location to another” from Sorsogon in Bicol region to Eastern Samar in the Visayas.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) also releases a statement that on, April 12, a day after their arrest warrants were issued, Lee booked a Cebu Pacific flight bound for Dubai, but later canceled his booking. 

April 30, 2014

Lee and Raz are arraigned. 

May 5, 2014

Cornejo surrenders to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Allan Purisima after weeks of evading arrest. 

July 12, 2014

The Taguig Prosecutor’s Office dismisses the second rape complaint filed by Cornejo against Navarro, ruling that the model’s testimony is doubtful. 

Cornejo has claimed that the It’s Showtime host raped her on January 17, or days before she invited him again to her condominium again on January 22, when the altercation between Lee’s camp and Navarro happened. 

August 6, 2014

Lee and Raz are transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, after having been previously detained at the NBI.

Cornejo remains at the Criminal Investigation and Detection group (CIDG) in Camp Crame. A Taguig RTC also denies her petition to stop her transfer to the city jail. 

September 15, 2014

A Taguig RTC grants the motions of Cornejo, Lee, and Raz to be allowed to post bail for the charges filed against them by Navarro. 

In a statement, Navarro’s lawyer Mallonga says they are shocked by the decision, and will appeal it. 

September 16, 2014

Lee and Raz are released after posting bail of P500,000 each. Cornejo remains in detention as her lawyers say they are still trying to raise the P500,000 bail. 

September 18, 2014

Cornejo iss released from the CIDG after her camp posts a bail of P500,000. 

After her release, the model goes straight to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to seek help on her dismissed rape case against Navarro. 

Meanwhile, Navarro says he is dismayed by the court’s decision to release the three from jail. 

From Our Archives

TIMELINE: Vhong Navarro’s rape and acts of lasciviousness cases

TIMELINE: Vhong Navarro’s rape and acts of lasciviousness cases
October 20, 2017

The Court of Appeals (CA) upholds the decision of the Taguig RTC to grant bail to Lee, Cornejo, and Raz. 

“While Navarro had indeed been detained, there is a possibility that said detention might be legal in view of citizen’s arrest and not for the purpose of kidnapping,” reads the decision penned by Associate Justice Renato Francisco.

However, the CA clarifies that it’s not telling of the court’s judgment on the final outcome of the case. 

2018 and 2020

The DOJ files resolutions affirming the dismissal of Cornejo’s 2014 complaints.

July 21, 2022

The CA’s 14th Division reverses and sets aside the DOJ’s previous resolutions from 2018 and 2020 affirming the dismissal of Cornejo’s 2014 complaint.

The CA then directs the City Prosecutor of Taguig City to file rape by sexual intercourse and acts of lasciviousness charges against Navarro.

September 20, 2022

Navarro surrenders to the NBI

November 6, 2022

The CA denies Lee’s motion to dismiss the serious illegal detention case filed against him by Navarro. 

The CA’s 17th Division affirms a 2019 order issued by the Taguig RTC that denied Lee’s motion to dismiss the case. 

December 5, 2022

The Taguig court grants Navarro’s bail petition, allowing him to pay P1 million for his temporary liberty.

Presiding Judge Loralie Cruz Datahan pens the order, citing the credibility of the complainant as “the single most important issue in the prosecution of rape cases,” and that the evidence presented by the prosecution in the bail hearings are too weak to warrant Navarro’s continued detention pending the trial of his case.

February 8, 2023

The SC 3rd Division dismisses the rape and acts of lasciviousness charges filed against Navarro. 

According to the SC, the CA gravely erred in ordering the DOJ to revive the rape case despite Cornejo’s inconsistencies.

“Indeed, no amount of skillful or artful deportment, manner of speaking, or portrayal in a subsequent court proceeding could supplant Cornejo’s manifestly inconsistent and highly deficient, doubtful, and unclear accounts of her supposed harrowing experience in the hands of Navarro,” the SC says.

May 2, 2024

Taguig RTC convicts Lee, Cornejo, Raz, and Ferdinand Guerrero of serious illegal detention for ransom in the case filed by Navarro. 

They are sentenced by the court to reclusion perpetua and their bail bond is also canceled. However, they can still file a motion for reconsideration. 

Cornejo and Raz, who personally attend the promulgation, are committed immediately by the court. A warrant arrest for Lee and Guerrero has been issued. 

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval tells the media that Lee has an active hold departure order since 2014 and a warrant of arrest since 2015. Both Lee and Guerrero’s name have also been on the Immigration Lookout Bulletin since 2014.

BI adds that they’re committed to implement the said orders if Lee and Guerrero are encountered in any ports of entry or exit.

Hours after the ruling, on It’s Showtime, Navarro takes the chance to express his gratitude towards his family, friends, and fans who have become his support system

Roller coaster ang pinagdaanan ko. Sobrang hirap i-explain. (What I went through was like a roller coaster. It’s difficult to explain.),” he says.  –

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