MANILA – Businessman Cedric Lee's involvement in a mauling incident several years ago could work against him in his legal battle with actor and television host Vhong Navarro, a lawyer said Tuesday.
Lawyer Lorna Kapunan said Lee's alleged mauling of triathlete David Bunevacz could be used as evidence against him by the camp of the "It's Showtime" host can.
"Sa law on evidence, this is acceptable, iyung pattern of conduct and yung reputation. You can prove reputation of the accused especially if there is a pattern of wrongdoing. Will it be accepted by the court? Yes ang sagot dyan," Kapunan told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda".
The "It's Showtime" host earlier revealed that he was beaten up inside a condo unit in The Fort last January 22, Wednesday.
Navarro said he was invited by his friend, Deniece Cornejo, to go to her unit at the Forbeswoods Heights on that date. He said that when he went up to the unit, Cornejo suddenly left the unit while six to seven men came in, beat him up, and took videos of his private parts.
He also said the men, led by Lee, tried to extort P1 million from him.
Lee has denied the allegations of extortion, but has admitting to beating up Navarro in order to stop his alleged attempt to rape Cornejo.
A police blotter on the incident filed by Cornejo and Lee accused Navarro of trying to rape the girl. Navarro denied that he is a rapist.
For his part, Lee said he was just supposed to pick up Cornejo from the condo unit when he heard shouting inside. He said he and another friend entered the unit and pulled Navarro off Cornejo.
He confirmed that they hit the actor several times because he was trying to fight back, and that they tied his hands and feet to prevent his escape.
Vhong Navarro after the attack. Photo courtesy of the actor-host
Kapunan also opined that the public seems to sympathize more with Navarro, not only because of his condition, but also because of claims that Lee's group played with the actor's private parts during the alleged mauling.
"I think ang public opinion dito ay mabigat. Hindi lang ang physical injuries eh. Iyung kwento niya [na pinag-laruan ang ari niya], ang tawag doon ay ignominy, which is when you add insult to injury," the lawyer said.
"Di bale na yung bubugbugin ka, nagagamot yun ng medical attention. But when they have trespassed the bounds of decency, imagine playing with your balls and taking shots of it, that is ignominy, because hindi mo intention lagi lang ang mag-hurt. Your intention is to insult," she added.
Kapunan also said that Navarro, being from the entertainment industry, has the tendency to be perceived as a playboy. She said this perception might put weight on Cornejo's rape allegations.
"Ang sabi nila to be believed, not only should you say what is true but you must be a credible person. Unfortunately for both sides, their reputation has preceded them. Iyung victim natin (Navarro), diba ang tawag doon 'Mr. Suave,' so that implies na chickboy siya. Pero iba ang chickboy at iba naman ang [rapist]," she said.
"Sa panig ng isa (Lee), ang reputation eh parang ang naririnig namin eh talagang scheme, talagang this is a repeated scheme to extort money from the people who value their reputation."
Nonetheless, Kapunan said both camps must be heard and scrutinized in the proper forum as no one deserves to undergo trial by publicity.
Kapunan said that based on all the accounts of the incident so far, the charges appropriate against Lee and his companions are serious illegal detention "accompanied by serious physical injuries."
"Mabigat na kaso iyan because ang penalty is reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment)," she said.
She added that Cornejo, although supposedly not involved in the mauling, can still be charged a principal in the case because the incident occurred in her condominium unit.
"Hindi natin alam ang intention ng girl, but the fact that admittedly it is her place, and she provided the place where the crime was committed, she should be accused, charged as a principal," she said.
"Palagay ko, from the stories I have heard, parang may unity of intention. Ang tawag doon conspiracy - the crime of one is the crime of all."