Cornejo, Lee seek reversal of guilty verdict, hit Taguig judge for ‘bias’
Model Deniece Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee have sought the reversal of the recent court verdict that found them guilty of grave coercion, saying the Taguig City judge who heard the case showed “bias and partiality” in favor of the complainant, actor Vhong Navarro.
Aside from filing a motion for reconsideration, they asked Judge Bernard Pineda Bernal of Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 74 to inhibit himself from the case.
On July 27, Bernal found Cornejo, Lee and coaccused Jed Fernandez guilty of grave coercion and ordered them imprisoned for a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years and six months.
In a statement, defense lawyer Howard Calleja said Bernal showed bias against his clients when the judge based his decision on the affidavit of one of the 10 prosecution witnesses, Dr. Bernadette Manalo-Arcena.
Citing Arcena’s affidavit, the court said it was the “harrowing experience of Navarro (that) affected his mental, emotional and psychological well-being, which constrained him to involuntarily sign the police blotter (entry)” admitting that he raped Cornejo.
The defense maintained that the accused carried out a citizen’s arrest after they caught Navarro in the act of raping Cornejo inside her Taguig condo unit. The actor was brought to the police station after taking a severe beating from Lee’s group.
Calleja called Arcena an “incompetent witness” because she was not at the Southern Police Station’s investigation division when Navarro signed the blotter on Jan. 22, 2014, and that weeks passed before the doctor gave her statement on Feb. 26.
According to the motion, the court “emphasized its bias” when its decision ignored the statements of the lone defense witness, SPO1 Rolly Lauerto, who was at the SPD on the night the crime took place and testified in court that Navarro was not coerced by the accused to sign the blotter.
If the accused were committing grave coercion at the SPD, “then the policemen should have arrested them right there and then,” it stressed.
“In spite of the contrasting testimonies, Judge Bernal chose to ignore the policeman’s testimony and sided with the physician who treated Navarro at St. Luke’s Medical Center after the alleged mauling incident had occurred,” Calleja noted.
In April 2014, the Department of Justice dismissed the rape and attempted rape charges filed by Cornejo against Navarro for lack of probable cause.
Cornejo and Lee are also facing trial for serious illegal detention at the Taguig RTC, and for perjury—for allegedly lying under oath—at a Manila court. They are currently out on bail in connection with the serious illegal detention case.
News handpicked by our editors
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.