Model Deniece Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee (back) attend the Department of Justice's preliminary investigation last February 22 on the mauling incident involving actor Vhong Navarro. Photo: ABS-CBN News
Suspects in Vhong mauling will face warrant, says lawyer
MANILA - (UPDATED) Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo and the five others tagged in the mauling of Vhong Navarro do not intend to flee, according to their lawyer, as they face a warrant of arrest following the resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the criminal charges filed against them by the actor.
In its resolution dated April 4, the DOJ said it has found probable cause to charge Lee, sister Bernice, Cornejo, Simeon Raz, Ferdinand Guerrero, Jose Paolo Calma, and Jed Fernandez for the crimes of grave coercion and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.
The legal counsel of Lee's camp, Atty. Howard Calleja, on Friday filed a motion for determination of probable cause in the serious illegal detention case, which seeks to block the arrest of his clients.
The Taguig Regional Trial Court is set to hear the motion on April 15.
"Kasama po sa aming hinihiling na aming finile ngayon na sana ay walang i-issue o walang, kung meron naman, na ipatupad na warrant habang dinidinig itong aming mosyon," Calleja told reporters shortly after filing the petition.
As of Friday morning, the lawyer said he had yet to speak with his clients, noting that their camp only learned of the DOJ's resolution on Thursday night through reports on radio and television. He claimed they have yet to receive a copy of the resolution.
Asked what he can assure once the arrest warrant is issued against his clients, Calleja said, "Well, from the start naman, sinabi naman namin na haharapin itong kasong ito. From the start, we always... I always told that. And that was said repeatedly, and I don't think naman magbabago iyon."
On whether Lee and his co-accused are still in the Philippines, Calleja was brief with words. "As far as I know po. Sa pagkakaalam ko, nandito po sila," he said.
Cedric flying out?
However, ABS-CBN News obtained a manifesto of a Cebu Pacific flight where "Cedric Lee" is listed as one of the passengers.
The flight, with the number 5J9744, is bound for Dubai on Saturday at 4 p.m.
At around 6 p.m. Friday, the booking for the flight made by "Cedric Lee" was cancelled, Cebu Pacific told ABS-CBN News.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration said the look-out bulletin for Lee is still in effect and that the businessman may be questioned if he is seen at the airport.
Officials added, however, that they cannot prohibit Lee from leaving the country.
When asked if his clients are ready to be put in jail, a laughing Calleja initially feigned not hearing the question. But he turned serious as he added that Lee, Cornejo and the others are also ready for the possibility of being absolved.
"For whatever it is, kung ano ang kailangan, ready naman silang mapawalang-sala and ready rin sila kung anumang sabihin ng korte. Either side, sabi ko nga, haharapin ang kasong ito squarely," Calleja said.
He added: "Nakahanda kaming gawin kahit na ano, lahat ng kinakailangan para harapin ito. Kasama na rin po diyan 'yung harapin ang pagka-abswelto sa kanila."
The lawyer made no mention of the dismissal of Cornejo's rape complaint against Navarro, which also stirred controversy in the last three months as their camp tried to reconcile the model's account of the alleged assault with publicized CCTV footage of the condominium where the mauling took place.
Calleja has lamented repeatedly that the reports on the case have painted his clients in a bad light, saying the investigation unfolded as a supposed trial by publicity.
"We have to remind the public that this is only the first step," he said on Friday, referring to the DOJ's resolution. "Marami pa hong prosesong dadaanan at the presumption of innocence is still in favor of my clients. Doon po tayo pupunta. Wala pa hong nahahatulan dito, hindi pa ho ito... kumbaga ito palang ang simula. Hindi po ho ito ang final decision."
"It's too early in the game to conclude anything or to judge anything. Sabi ko nga, ito lang ay unang hakbang sa marami pang proseso. We are willing to participate and we are willing to face it squarely all steps of the way," he said.