Vhong absent from mediation hearing on grave coercion case
MANILA -- Cedric Lee had a few but spiteful words for Vhong Navarro shortly after a mediation hearing on Monday for the grave coercion case filed against him by the actor.
The others charged with the same criminal offense are Bernice Lee, Deniece Cornejo, Simeon "Zimmer" Raz, Jr., Ferdinand Guerrero, Jed Fernandez and Jose Paulo Calma.
Only Lee, Bernice, Cornejo and Raz attended the mediation at the Taguig City Metropolitan Court.
Navarro was represented by his legal counsel Atty. Alma Mallonga, who explained that the mediation is "required and not a matter of choice."
Asked for his comment after the hearing, Lee said: "Hindi dumating 'yung rapist, e. May nire-rape pa sa ibang lugar." He also said no when asked if he is open to have a settlement with Navarro.
Cornejo accused Navarro of raping her inside her condominium unit in Taguig, which she alleged led to the controversial mauling of the actor last January 22.
Cornejo's rape complaint has since been dismissed by the Department of Justice.
Speaking with reporters after the mediation, Mallonga reiterated Navarro's earlier statement that he is not willing have a settlement with Lee's group. The lawyer added, however, that they are "keeping [their] options open" concerning the grave coercion case.
"Sinabi na namin na mahirap pag-usapan itong settlement. But we have a process to undergo. Tingnan natin ang mangyayari... We are going to consider giving way to the request of the mediator," she said.
The next mediation hearing will be held on July 7.
Mallonga explains no-show
Explaining the absence of Navarro from the mediation hearing, Mallonga said, "Among others, we did raise the fact that we had legitimate concerns about kung ano'ng mangyayari pag siya'y nandito ulit."
Mallonga was referring to an incident last May 29 at the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office. After the last preliminary investigation into a third rape case filed against the actor, he was confronted by former pageant contestant Roxanne Cabanero, the second woman to accuse him of rape.
Navarro was also heckled by several people wearing shirts with a print that says, "Jail the Rapist."
"Sa aking palagay, hindi natin dapat i-expose si Mr. Navarro sa hirap, sa lalong pahirap," Mallonga said. "Kasi he already underwent that, and he's doing his role. And remember ito'y ginagawa niya hindi lamang para sa kanyang sarili, pero para sa ibang tao na naging biktima rin ng krimen."
"Importante sa akin na bigyan natin ng dignidad at respeto ang katauhan ni Mr. Navarro, and I'm not sure everyone is prepared to do just that. Merong mga ibang tao, sa sarili nilang agenda, ay iba ang gusto nilang mangyari. And we don't want to give them opportunities to do that. Huwag na," she added.
Mallonga also pointed out that relatives of Cornejo attended Monday's hearing, as they did last May 29, despite not being involved in the case.
Reaction to 'rapist' remark
Asked for her reaction to Lee's "rapist" remark moments earlier, Mallonga referred to it as a "precise" example of why their camp is hesitant to have Navarro attend some court hearings.
"Nakita niyo? Bibigyan ba natin sila ng opportunities na gawin ito? Lahat ito'y iniipon namin," she said. "Hindi nawawala sa isipan namin iyon. But in the end, what is important for us is that there are already cases pending and we are very confident that following the process, hopefully, we will get justice."
Lee and Raz are currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila for the separate, non-bailable offense of serious illegal detention, still in relation with the January 22 mauling of Navarro.
Cornejo, meanwhile, is under the custody of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group at Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City for the same criminal offense.