Model Deniece Cornejo (wearing cap), one of five people charged with serious illegal detention in connection with the January 22 mauling of actor Vhong Navarro, surrenders to police at Camp Crame on Monday. Accompanying Cornejo (left) is granduncle Rod. Photo: ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Model Deniece Cornejo, one of five charged with serious illegal detention in connection with the January 22 mauling of actor Vhong Navarro, was encouraged to surrender after her family reached out to her and was assured of her safety, according to a lawyer representing her family.
Cornejo surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday afternoon, two weeks after the Taguig Regional Trial Court issued arrest warrants for the non-bailable offense against her and four others.
Last Saturday, Cornejo's grand uncle, Rod Cornejo, made a televised appeal to the 22-year-old to face authorities. This plea, according to the older Cornejo's lawyer and friend, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, encouraged Deniece to come out of hiding and finally discuss the terms of her surrender with family members.
"I was there noong nanawagan ang kanyang grand uncle, si Manong Rod Cornejo, for her to give up," Topacio told ANC. "The family was [encouraging] her to do so for everyone's peace of mind for her safety, and other considerations."
"I think having received good counsel from her lawyers, from her relatives, she finally decided to turn herself in and face the charges," he said.
Asked what his role is in the surrender of Cornejo, Topacio clarified that Atty. Howard Calleja remains as the model's legal counsel.
Topacio said he only "helped with the process whereby [Cornejo] could safely appear, without any threat to her life, and then be taken into custody by the authorities."
'Deniece was afraid'
Cornejo, according to Topacio, always wanted to surrender as she is "confident of her innocence," but was concerned over her safety and the "uncertainty as to what will happen."
"Ngunit unang-una po, there were considerations sa kanyang kaligtasan. Natakot po 'yung bata," the lawyer told "TV Patrol" on Monday night. "Siya po ay batang babae na 22 years old. Hindi naman po siya sanay sa mga ganitong kaguluhan."
Explaining why Cornejo decided to surrender to the PNP, Topacio continued, "Siyempre po, nangamba po siyang labis na kung ano'ng mangyari sa kanya, lalo na po na nakikita niya, sa kanyang pananaw, na hindi po parehas ang pagtrato ng kasong ito sa panig ng [National Bureau of Investigation]."
"Kaya't nagpasya po siya na kung susuko siya ay sa PNP po, kung saan po siya mas komportable at pakiramdam niya ay magbibigay sa kanya ng fair [treatment]," he said.
Asked what other fears Cornejo has, now that she has come out of hiding, Topacio pointed at the "massive publicity" against the model at the height of the controversy involving Navarro, whom she accused of rape.
The Department of Justice has dismissed Cornejo's rape complaint against the actor.
"Ultimo pagkatao po niya was called into question na hindi naman po dapat sa isang usaping katulad nito," Topacio said. "Siguro naman po, hindi po natin masisisi 'yung bata kung nagkaroon po ng takot sa kanyang dibdib na kung susuko siya nang basta-basta na lamang, nang walang pakikpag-ugnayan sa mga may kapangyarihan, ay kung ano nalang po ang mangyari sa kanya."
Cornejo's co-accused, Cedric Lee and Simeon Raz, were arrested for the same non-bailable offense in Oras, Eastern Samar last April 25.
Aside from Cornejo, Lee, and Raz, arrest warrants for serious illegal detention were issued against Ferdinand Guerrero and Jed Fernandez -- who remain 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.
Shortly after she surrendered on Monday, Cornejo was brought to the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), where she was processed under the Women and Children Protection Desk.
Cornejo will be brought to the Taguig Regional Trial Court on Tuesday, CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong said.
According to Tapacio, Cornejo is looking forward to being absolved of the criminal case against her.
"Number one na kunsiderasyon po kung bakit siya ay sumuko na ay kanyang panananalig na siya'y walang kasalanan, at kung haharapin niya ito at lilitisin nang parehas, walang trial by publicity, walang character assassination, ay sabi ng pamilya Cornejo na pag gano'n, ay makakakuha sila ng katarungan and as a matter of fact, maa-abswelto po si Ms. Deniece Cornejo."