Cedric Lee (center) and Zimmer Raz (blue shirt in the background), two of the five people charged with serious illegal detention for the mauling of actor Vhong Navarro, are escorted by National Bureau of Investigation agents to the Taguig Regional Trial Court on May 6.
MANILA - Four of the seven charged with grave coercion in relation to the January 22 mauling of actor Vhong Navarro pleaded not guilty to the criminal offense on Thursday.
Deniece Cornejo, one of the accused, arrived minutes ahead of Navarro and girlfriend Tanya Bautista at the Taguig court, which issued the arrest warrants for the grave coercion case last March 14.
Although Cornejo posted the P12,000 bail for the criminal offense, she is currently detained at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City for the separate non-bailable charge of serious illegal detention, still in relation to the controversy involving Navarro.
Cornejo and co-accused Bernice Lee, who has also posted bail for the grave coercion case, pleaded not guilty before the Taguig MTC on Thursday morning.
Some 10 minutes after their arrival, Navarro and Bautista left the Taguig court together at 9:15 a.m. Cornejo was escorted out by PNP personnel five minutes later.
The five others accused in the case, including Cedric Lee and Simeon "Zimmer" Raz, Jr., were a no-show at the scheduled arraignment in the morning.
Lee and Raz only arrived hours later at around 12:20 p.m. from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila, where they are currently detained also for the criminal charge of serious illegal detention.
NBI agents who escorted Lee and Raz explained they received the notice on the arraignment schedule late.
Both Lee and Raz also pleaded not guilty to grave coercion, a clerk of Taguig MTC Branch 74 told ABS-CBN News.
Those accused in the grave coercion case who did not show up were Jed Fernandez, Ferdinand Guerrero, and Jose Paolo Calma. They are all still at large.
Fernandez and Guerrero are also charged for serious illegal detention. The Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) did not issue arrest warratns for Bernice Lee and Calma for the non-bailable offense.
The Taguig RTC will hold the hearing for the Lee and Raz's petition for bail in the serious illegal detention case on May 16. The Taguig MTC has also set a mediation for the grave coercion case on June 2. -- Reports from Dexter Ganibe, Zhander Cayabyab, DZMM; Jeck Batallones, Kori Quintos, ABS-CBN News