MANILA, Philippines - A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors is set to subpoena three other suspects in connection with the attack on television host and comedian Vhong Navarro, an official said yesterday.
The new respondents named in the supplemental affidavit by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which filed the serious illegal detention charges, are Zimmer Rance of Barangay Tambo, Parañaque City; Jeff Fernandez of Pasig City; and a certain JP Calma of San Lorenzo Village, Makati City, Prosecutor Marie Elvira Herrera said.
The three additional respondents will be notified so they could submit their counter-affidavit to the charges, she added. Herrera and Prosecutors Olivia Torrevillas and Hazel Decena-Valdez comprise the DOJ panel presiding over the preliminary investigation hearing yesterday.
The DOJ had earlier consolidated the cases stemming from the attack on Navarro. The cases include the rape case filed by model Deniece Cornejo against Navarro, who filed cases of serious illegal detention, serious physical injuries, grave threats, grave coercion, illegal arrest, and blackmail against Cornejo and her friends, led by Cedric Lee.
The DOJ also included the case filed by the Taguig City police against Megaforce Security Services for violating Presidential Decree 1829, which penalizes the obstruction of apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.
The respondents initially named for the consolidated case hearings – Navarro, Cornejo and Lee – did not show up during the 45-minute hearing at the DOJ yesterday.
Rape charge up for resolution
The prosecutors announced that the rape charge has been submitted for resolution after Navarro’s lawyer, Romeo Johan Fernandez, said his client will just use his affidavit in the serious illegal detention case as his counter-affidavit in the rape case.
Herrera pointed out that Cornejo did not confirm the rape charge before the panel.
Cornejo’s lawyer, Arleo Magtibay, said his client failed to appear before the DOJ panel because they were attending to another hearing in Taguig City.
During the hearing, NBI-National Capital Region director Elfren Meneses submitted supplemental compact discs of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and the supplemental affidavits of witnesses, such as those by security guards securing the condominium where the attack on Navarro occurred.
One of these CCTV videos shows Lee kissing Cornejo in the elevator as Lee’s sister, Bernice, fixed her hair by using her reflection on the elevator door. The footage was taken after Navarro was brought to the Southern Police District by the Lee siblings, Cornejo and the other suspects after beating him up in Cornejo’s Forbeswood Heights condominium unit on Jan. 22.
Lee, a married man, claimed he and Cornejo are only friends and that he and others beat Navarro when they saw the comedian raping Cornejo.
Protection plea junked
Meanwhile, Cornejo’s petition for the issuance of a temporary protection order (TPO) against Navarro was dismissed by the Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 69 Judge Loriefel Pahinmna after a 30-minute hearing yesterday afternoon, according to Alma Mallonga, another lawyer of Navarro.
She said the TPO petition that sought to bar Navarro from approaching Cornejo was denied because it lacked basis under Republic Act 9262 (Violence Against Women and Children Law) since Navarro and Cornejo are not partners with romantic and sexual relations.
“Cases covered by the law involve women and their husbands, ex-husbands or those dating or with sexual relations,” Mallonga said.
She added that Cornejo also asked the court to issue a gag order on media regarding the rape case she filed against Navarro. The lawyer said the court also dismissed this petition.
Another lawyer of Cornejo, Howard Calleja, said he will file a motion for reconsideration.