Deniece Cornejo. File photo
'She is the most vulnerable in all of this'
MANILA - The lawyer of Vhong Navarro expressed concern for Deniece Cornejo, who could be arrested and jailed soon in connection with the actor's mauling in January.
The 22-year-old model is "the most vulnerable" among her co-accused, Atty. Alma Mallonga told radio DZMM on Friday.
"I spoke to a person just earlier today who has I think communication with Deniece," Mallonga said. "I actually said, 'You know, you better tell Deniece to be careful.'"
Cornejo and 6 others including businessman Cedric Lee have been indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for serious grave coercion and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.
Lee's group has claimed that Navarro raped Cornejo on the night of January 22, which supposedly led to the attack that left the actor with serious injuries.
The DOJ has dismissed Cornejo's rape complaint, saying her camp was unable to provide a logical story, given the evidence including a CCTV footage of the condominium where the mauling took place.
"A few months back now, I've always thought that maybe she is the most vulnerable in all of this," Mallonga said, referring to Cornejo.
The lawyer said Cornejo could have testified against her co-accused at one point, with the possibility of lessening her penalty, but alleged that she continued to conspire with Lee, among others, in forming their account of the January 22 incident.
"If she suddenly speaks out, it's going to be very damaging, so the easiest thing to do is for her to just disappear to obviate that eventuality or that possibility. I am then concerned," Mallonga said.
She added: "For all the rest, for all the respondents, actually my feelings from the very beginning is, 'You speak your truth,' like what Vhong did. If you say the truth -- 'I'm not part of the conspiracy' -- and do not support each other... Because to the extent na pinagtutugma-tugma niyo ang inyong kwento, ibig sabihin no'n, sabay-sabay kayong lahat."
"Well, unfortunately for her at this point, the matter is there is a case against her, and the case against her is non-bailable."
In a separate interview on Friday, Atty. Howard Calleja, the legal counsel of Lee's group, said his clients do not intend to flee and are "willing to face [the legal process] squarely all steps of the way."
Meanwhile, Mallonga lamented how three women, including Cornejo and former pageant contestant Roxanne Cabañero, have supposedly "damaged the cause of women" with their "false claims" in filing rape charges against Navarro.
"Alam mo ito, hindi ako natutuwa dito, ah, sa katotohanan lang, 'yung mga ginawa nila ni Deniece, nila Roxanne. I don't feel good defending actually Vhong in the sense na sasabihin kong, 'Itong mga babaeng ito, hindi nagsasabi ng totoo.' Because it does a lot for other women, it says a lot.
"That's the advocacy I have -- women! Pag merong lumapit sa akin na, 'Ma'am, na-rape ako,' makikinig ako and my first inclination is to believe her because it's very difficult to prosecute a case for rape. It's not easy," she said.