Former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta-Cabanero and actor Vhong Navarro. Composite image
MANILA - The lawyer of Vhong Navarro believes that businessman Cedric Lee is behind the rape case filed by former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta-Cabanero against the actor.
Atty. Alma Mallonga on Wednesday once again denied Cabenaro's allegation that Navarro raped her on the night of April 24, 2010, supposedly during her stint in a national pageant.
"Walang ginagawang karahasan si Vhong against this new complainant. And we are prepared [to face her accusation], in fact," Mallonga said Wednesday in an interview on ABS-CBN Sports+Action's "News +".
She said Navarro will submit his counter-affidavit on Cabanero's rape complaint on March 13, during the preliminary investigation into the case.
Mallonga expressed confidence that they can easily disprove Cabanero's claims, noting that she was specific with the details of the alleged rape -- including the time, date, and place -- in her sworn statement.
In her complaint-affidavit filed at the Pasig City Prosecutor's Office last February 19, Cabanero alleged Navarro's sexual assault took place on the night of April 24 after he supposedly fetched her from Astoria Hotel in Pasig, where she claimed to have been staying as a pageant contestant.
Navarro's "It's Showtime" co-host, Vice Ganda, made a contradictory statement in an interview on "Buzz ng Bayan" aired Sunday. He said Navarro was among his special guests during his concert at Island Cove in Cavite on the same night Cabanero alleged the rape happened.
Vice Ganda made the statement under oath on Wednesday. It will be used as evidence in Navarro's counter-affidavit.
The management of Island Cove has gone on record to confirm that Navarro was at the resort as a guest performer in Vice Ganda's show.
Astoria Hotel has also denied housing pageant contestants in April 2010, contrary to Cabanero's statement.
"We are telling even now... Ang gusto namin huwag na kami maghintay until March 13 para ilabas na namin lahat," Mallonga said on Wednesday.
Businessman Cedric Lee. ABS-CBN News
The lawyer, who earlier referred to Cabanero's case as a "distraction" from Navarro's legal battle with Lee's camp, reiterated her suspicion that the Cabanero has ties with the businessman.
Mallonga said she believes that Cabanero's complaint is part of a "strategy" plotted by Lee, who is among the eight respondents in the criminal charges filed by Navarro in connection with a January 22 mauling incident.
Lee and his group are facing charges for serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.
Navarro claimed that he was set up by model Deniece Cornejo for an extortion attempt allegedly led by Lee. The actor said he was blindfolded, tied up and attacked by "six to seven men" inside Cornejo's condominium unit in Taguig.
Cornejo, in her rape complaint filed against Navarro last January 29, alleged that she was "rescued" by Lee's group from being sexually assaulted by the actor, which supposedly led to the mauling.
Mallonga on Wednesday recalled an interview in January where Lee claimed that he knows of several other women, aside from Cornejo, who were allegedly willing to come forward to say they were also sexually assaulted by Navarro.
The lawyer was referring to Lee's interview with ABS-CBN News' Jay Ruiz, wherein he said, "Merong mga ilang babaeng nagtawagan na sa akin dahil sila raw din pala ay naging biktima ni Vhong."
Lee reiterated the claim in a separate interview on radio dzMM.
"Sila naman ang nagsasabi," Mallonga said. "Nakakatawa nga si Cedric Lee. 'Di ba sinabi niya, just one day after [Navarro's interview on 'Buzz ng Bayan'], ang dami nang tumatawag sa kanya. Paano nila malalaman kung paano tawagan si Cedric Lee, hindi ba?"
"In fact, ngayon palang, may mga naririnig kami na talagang pang-dishearten, pampaproblema kay Vhong na 'di lang dito sa Manila. Meron pang lalabas doon sa Cebu ulit. In other words, papagurin siya," Mallonga said.
"I will not be surprised if for example meron pang sumulpot na complainant, hindi na dito sa Manila, para guluhin si Vhong, i-burden siya financially. Baka sa Cebu, baka sa Davao. Because, as you know, Vhong goes around the country. So we are prepared," she said.
Cabanero earlier denied having any connection with Lee or Cornejo, whom she has referred to as an "inspiration" in filing her own rape complaint.
"Hindi ko sila kilala," Cabanero told ABS-CBN News' Doris Bigornia in a February 21 interview. "And as much as possible, ayokong maapektuhan ang kaso ko dahil dito. Ayokong ma-link sa kanila. 'Yung kaso ko, kaso ko. Sa kanila, sa kanila."