Vhong Navarro and Deniece Cornejo. Composite image
MANILA - The lawyer of Deniece Cornejo appealed against "stereotyping" the now-controversial model when asked why she agreed to meet Vhong Navarro a second time after the actor-host supposedly raped her five days earlier on January 17.
Cornejo's legal counsel, Atty. Howard Calleja, sidestepped the question during his live interview on "Aquino and Abunda Tonight" on Tuesday.
Referring to the night when Navarro allegedly sexually assaulted Cornejo a second time, host Boy Abunda asked the lawyer: "Kung ito ay rape, bakit siya bumalik noong January 22?"
"'Yun pa ang sinasabi natin, 'no. We are stereotyping a character or we are imposing an action that we want the victim to perform," Calleja said. "Ang sinasabi namin, marami na akong rape victims na na-handle and the worse thing is to stereotype them."
"Let us not stereotype them. Let us understand them as a victim. And whatever they do, whether ang ginawa niya ay hindi tama -- 'yung reaction niya, hindi tama -- hindi ibig sabihin hindi siya na-rape," he said.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News' Maan Macapagal on Monday, Calleja said the details of the case, including Cornejo and Navarro's arrangement of a second meeting, should be left to court proceedings.
"Siguro... Sabi ko nga, 'yung mga detalye na 'yun... Iyon ay pag-uusapan nalang sa korte. Sabi ko nga, I'm just telling you the judisprudence but not the details, because we have to remember -- ito ay kaso ng panghahalay o rape. 'Yung mga detalye, huwag na po natin isiwalat dahil ito ay nasa realm na ng pag-iimbestiga o pag-try sa korte."
'We never denied'
Calleja on Tuesday said Cornejo's claim of rape on January 17, which is detailed in her counter-affidavit to Navarro's criminal charges, is not contradictory to the model's earlier statements regarding her acquaintance with the actor.
"Linawin po natin, wala naman pong contradictory, walang kaibahan, walang binago, walang dinagdag," the lawyer said. "We were just concentrating on the January 22 rape at that time."
In his complaint-affidavit in relation to the January 22 mauling incident filed last month, Navarro said he and Cornejo had oral sex on January 17 at her condominium unit at Forbeswood Heights in Taguig.
In an interview on ANC's "Headstart" on January 30, Calleja denied Navarro's claim, saying he had asked Cornejo about the alleged incident. "We talked about that, and Deniece said talagang walang nangyari noong time na 'yon," he said at the time.
However, Calleja on Tuesday said he never denied that his client had sexual relations with Navarro during their first meeting.
"Wala ho kaming dini-deny," he said on "Aquino and Abunda Tonight." "Ang sinasabi ko nga, malinaw po 'yon, even in the affidavit of Deniece. We were just silent about it. Hindi kami nag-deny. Wala kaming sinabing walang nangyari."
Asked why Cornejo only detailed the alleged January 17 incident in her counter-affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Calleja pointed at Navarro's own admission of sexual relations with the model in his sworn statement.
Cornejo made no mention of sexual assault on the 17th in her initial affidavit in the rape complaint she filed against Navarro last January 29.
"Nung nakita namin 'yung affidavit ni Vhong, meron siyang sinabing sexual incident nung 17, at sinasabi niya consensual 'yon," Calleja said. "Malinaw na hindi naman consensual 'yon. So we also had to come out."
In a separate interview with ABS-CBN News on Monday, the lawyer said some understanding is due Cornejo with regard to her belated accusation of another rape case against Navarro.
"We have to give leeway and understanding to the rape victim," Calleja said. "It is hard enough to relive one experience again and again and again. And it's harder to relive two or three or more than one experience."
Vhong's camp 'even more confident'
Navarro's legal counsel, Atty. Alma Mallonga, referred to Cornejo's new rape claim against her client as "fatal" to her case, saying it hurts her credibility.
"Hindi ko alam kung makakatulong ito sa kanila, but definitely, 'yung pagbabago ng kwento sa obvious na kadahilanang kailan nilang magresponde doon sa CCTV footage, malaking dagok 'yon sa kanilang credibility at 'yung ability nila now to move forward in trying to prove their claim," she said, referring to footage released by the National Bureau of Investigation showing those tagged in the January 22 mauling, including Cornejo.
"So sa aking palagay, hindi nakatulong 'yung pagbabago. In fact, I would think fatal ito doon sa kanyang complaint. Mas lalo kaming naging kumpyansa na walang mangyayari dito sa kanyang reklamo," Mallonga told ABS-CBN News in a separate interview on Monday.
Navarro has repeatedly denied raping Cornejo on January 22, saying he was a victim of extortion. He said he was blindfolded and tied up before being attacked by at least six men, including businessman Cedric Lee.
The actor filed six criminal charges against Lee, Cornejo and six others: serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.
The DOJ has set the third hearing on Navarro and Cornejo's filed cases on February 28.