MANILA, Philippines – In a ruling issued on February 8 but made public on Monday, March 13, the Supreme Court (SC) 3rd Division dismissed the rape and acts of lasciviousness charges filed against actor Vhong Navarro by model Deniece Cornejo.
The decision marks the end of a rollercoaster, nine-year legal dispute, brought about by a violent altercation in Cornejo’s condominium unit in January 2014. Here is an abbreviated timeline of the events:
January 22, 2014
Cornejo files a complaint at 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 the time unnamed – was alone in her condominium unit when Navarro arrived at around 10:30 pm that night. Once inside the unit, Navarro allegedly proceeded to rape her.
The document then details that the complainant’s friends, including businessman Cedric Lee, arrived and arrested Navarro via citizen’s arrest. Navarro, who sustained injuries on his face, was then brought to the Southern Police District by the complainant’s friends.
January 24, 2014
In a statement shared by ABS-CBN, Navarro’s home network, his talent manager, director Chito Roño, counters that Navarro was “a victim of extortion,” though he did not elaborate further.
January 28, 2014
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) files a complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Cornejo, Cedric 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 were Bernice Lee, Ferdinand Guerrero, Zimmer Raz, a certain alias “Mike,” and two more unidentified suspects.
April 10, 2014
The DOJ releases a resolution dismissing Cornejo’s rape complaint. Its investigating panel also found probable cause to indict Lee, his sister Bernice, Cornejo, Raz, JP Calma, Ferdinand Guerrero, and Jed Fernandez.
On the alleged rape, the resolution said that Cornejo’s narrative “demonstrates physical improbability.”
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.
“Cornejo decries attempted rape on the night of January 22, 2014 while Navarro denies any wrongdoing. We reiterate once more that the preliminary investigation is not the proper venue on the respondent’s guilt or innocence,” the CA said.
“Cornejo’s claim that she initially managed to escape Navarro’s unwanted advances, but he caught up with her to further his perverse objective satisfies the element of force and intimidation,” the CA added, stressing that such cases in which credibility between the accuser and the accused is weighed should happen during a proper court trial.
The CA then directs the City Prosecutor of Taguig City to file rape by sexual intercourse and acts of lasciviousness charges against the actor.
September 20, 2022
Navarro surrenders to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
November 6, 2022
The CA denies Lee’s motion to dismiss the serious illegal detention case filed against him by Navarro.
November 21, 2022
Navarro is transferred from the NBI headquarters to Taguig City Jail, upon the order of Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 69.
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 penned 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.
January 16, 2023
Navarro returns to his hosting stint on ABS-CBN’s It’s Showtime.
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 said. – Rappler.com
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