Cedric, Zimmer, Deniece plead not guilty to grave coercion
MANILA - Vhong Navarro and his girlfriend, Tanya Bautista, arrived hand-in-hand at the Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) Thursday morning for the arraignment of the seven charged with grave coercion in connection with the January 22 mauling of the actor.
Cornejo and co-accused Bernice Lee, who both pleaded not guilty to the criminal offense, arrived at the Taguig court at 9 a.m., only minutes before Navarro and Bautista.
At 9:15 a.m., the long-time couple were seen leaving the Taguig MTC, with Cornejo emerging from the main entrance with Philippine National Police personnel five minutes later.
Cedric Lee and Simeon "Zimmer" Raz, Jr., Cornejo's co-accused, also pleaded not guilty to grave coercion at around 12:20 p.m., hours after the arraignment's original schedule.
In Navarro's most recent interview discussing Bautista, the "It's Showtime" co-host said the controversial incident in January strengthened their relationship.
"Sobrang saya namin lalo ngayon," Navarro said in April. "Noong una kasi, sobrang hirap. Kasi nababalik sa kanya 'yung ginawa ko, e, 'di ba? Iyon talaga, nag-mi-mixed emotions siya. Meron okay kami, tapos hindi na siya okay."
In the weeks following the mauling, an emotional Navarro apologized repeatedly to Bautista for agreeing to meet Cornejo, who alleged that the attack on the actor was provoked by him sexually assaulting her at her condominium unit.
The Department of Justice has since junked Cornejo's rape complaint.
Navarro, whose previous marriage with Bianca Lapus was annulled in 2010, added that he has made a conscious effort to assure Bautista of his being a faithful partner, following the controversy.
"This time mas nakita ko, mas naramdaman ko, na hindi lang pala talaga siya girlfriend ko lang. Siya rin pala 'yung best friend ko," he said. "Gusto ko lang sabihin na wala na akong hahanapin pa kay Tanya. At gusto ko, siya na makasama ko habang-buhay."
After the arraignment on Thursday, Cornejo was brought to the PNP headquarters where she is currently detained for the criminal case of serious illegal detention, still in relation to Navarro's case.
Lee and Raz, meanwhile, returned to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila, where they are also detained for the same non-bailable offense.
Those accused in the grave coercion case who did not show up at the arraignment 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 did not issue arrest warrants for Bernice Lee and Calma for serious illegal detention.