Former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta-Cabañero and actor-host Vhong Navarro
MANILA - The camp of Vhong Navarro, for the first time, outright denied the allegations of former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta Cabanero, who claimed she was raped by the actor in 2010.
Navarro's legal counsel, Atty. Alma Mallonga, told radio dzMM on Friday that her client said he knows Cabañero, but did not say how they are acquainted.
Mallonga said she asked Navarro about Cabañero after the woman's lawyer, Atty. Virgilio Batalla, confirmed in an interview last Wednesday that they filed a rape complaint at Pasig City Prosecutor's Office.
"After nagsalita na iyung abugado ng bagong complainant... And they're coming out openly na nakakapagtaka, because if you are a true rape victim, ayaw mong... Nabanggit ko na, tinanong ko na si Vhong, 'Kilala mo ba?' Sabi niya, 'Oo.'"
"At ang masasabi ko lang po, wala pong ginawang karahasan sa kanya si Vhong," said Mallonga, adding she will most likely handle the new rape case lodged against Navarro.
Noting their camp has yet to receive a copy of the Cabañero's complaint-affidavit, Mallonga said she and her client will put off commenting further on the case.
However, she questioned the credibility of Cabañero, who she believes has ties with businessman Cedric Lee, one of the 8 persons facing criminal charges filed by Navarro in connection with a mauling incident on January 22.
She reiterated that they had been expecting a new complaint against the actor, citing Lee's earlier statement that several other women, aside from model Deniece Cornejo, were willing to come forward and say they were also molested by Navarro.
Cornejo claimed that she was "rescued" by Lee's group from being sexually assaulted by the actor, which supposedly led to the mauling.
"Matagal na kasi na meron silang sinabi na meron silang mga kinakausap na mga babae. May sinabi 'yung abugado na meron silang pasabog... Unfortunately for them, hindi ito pasabog because it has nothing to do with the case filed by Deniece," she said.
Asked to react to Cabañero's statement on Friday denying she has ties with Lee, Mallonga said, "Well, iyon ang kwento nila."
"Alam mo, kahit sino naman puwedeng magkwento at puwedeng magsampa ng kaso. Ang tanong ay kaya mo bang pangatawanan ang iyong paratang?
"And you have to be very careful when you file a complaint, it is under oath. There are legal consequences to that, sa pagsampa ng kaso na may kasinungalingan," she said.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News' Doris Bigornia on Friday, an emotional Cabañero said the alleged rape took place during her stint in a pageant in Manila. She said she met Navarro when she and her fellow candidates visited "It's Showtime," which the actor co-hosts, to promote the pageant.
Cabañero claimed Navarro contacted her after getting her number though a staff member of the noontime program. She said Navarro invited her out for coffee, only to be brought to a secluded place at around 12 midnight to supposedly rape her inside his car.
According to Cabañero, she was threatened by Navarro, which supposedly prevented her from bringing her case authorities. She cited Cornejo's plight as her inspiration to finally file a complaint against the actor.
Mallonga reacted to this admission of Cabañero on Friday, saying, "Kung ang sinasabi nung bagong complainant ngayon ay she was inspired o nagkaroon siya ng lakas ng loob magsampa dahil doon sa may sinampa ni Deniece, paano mangyayari 'yun, eh alam na alam ho natin na walang basehan po ang sinasabi ni Deniece na rape?"
"We saw it with our own two eyes. The testimonies of witnesses talagang support Vhong's story. Walang panggagahasang nangyari," the lawyer added, referring to several CCTV footage showing those involved in the mauling of Navarro on the night of the incident.
The actor has filed six criminal charges against Cornejo and Lee's group: serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.
The Department of Justice held its second preliminary investigation into the cases filed by Navarro on Friday afternoon, where Cornejo, Cedrice Lee, Bernice Lee, and Zimmer Raz formally submitted their counter-affidavit.
The panel will hear the side of two other respondents, JP Calma and Jed Fernandez, on February 28.