Simeon Raz and Cedric Lee. Composite Image
Court enters not guilty plea on their behalf
MANILA - (UPDATED) A Taguig court pleaded not guilty for businessman Cedric Lee and Simeon Raz on Wednesday to the charge of serious illegal detention of actor Vhong Navarro, after the two refused to enter a plea.
Lee and Raz were arraigned at the Taguig Regional Court Branch 271 in relation to the January 22 mauling of Navarro.
"The court entered a plea for them, because they refused to talk," Prosecutor Hazel Valdez told reporters.
According to Navarro's legal counsel, Atty. Alma Mallonga, Lee's camp attempted to file a motion to stop the arraignment, but Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes decided to push through.
After the arraignment, Lee and Raz was brought back to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila, where they have been detained since Sunday, following their arrest in Oras, Eastern Samar last Saturday.
The pre-trial for the serious illegal detention case and the hearing for Lee's petition for bail are scheduled on May 6.
Aside from Lee and Raz, arrest warrants for the non-bailable offense of serious illegal dentention have been issued against Cornejo, Ferdinand Guerrero and Jed Fernandez, who are all at large.
All five, plus Lee's sister Bernice and Jose Paolo Calma, were issued separate arrest warrants for grave coercion. Bernice, Cornejo, and Fernandez earlier posted P12,000 bail each for the criminal offense.
Calma, meanwhile, left the Philippines last April 10 despite a lookout bulletin order mentioning his name.
Lee and his co-accused have claimed that they had to attack Navarro to supposedly rescue Cornejo, who alleged that she was raped by the actor when he visited her at her condominium unit at Forbeswood Heights in Taguig.
Navarro denied raping Cornejo and alleged that he was blindfolded, tied up and mauled by Lee's group.
The "It's Showtime" co-host claimed that Lee's group forced him to say on camera that he raped Cornejo, and that they used the video and a police blotter detailing the alleged rape to threaten him against reporting the incident.
The Department of Justice has since dismissed Cornejo's rape complaint against Navarro.