Lee, Cornejo want Taguig judge kicked out of judiciary
Not content with their motion for reconsideration seeking the reversal of the court’s conviction against them, businessman Cedric Lee and model Deniece Cornejo now wanted a Taguig judge out of the judiciary.
Lee and Cornejo asked the Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator “to administratively sanction and remove from the judiciary” Judge Bernard Bernal of the Taguig City Municipal Trial Court Branch 74 for wrongly convicting them for grave coercion filed by actor Vhong Navarro.
On July 27, Bernal found the two, and their co-accused Jed Fernandez “guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” and sentenced them to an indeterminate jail time of six months to three years and six months.
They filed a motion for reconsideration on the judge’s decision, and also asked Bernal to recuse himself from their case.
In their complaint filed on August 17, they said: “[Bernal’s] wrong appreciation of the facts, laws and evidence surrounding the case manifests his gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority, and extreme bias and partiality, thus leading to an unjustified judgment of convicting [Lee and Cornejo].”
Their counsel, Howard Calleja, said Bernal violated the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as the constitutional rights of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the case against them.
Calleja cited the judge’s admission of testimonies of prosecution witnesses who did not have personal knowledge of the crime, particularly Navarro’s physician Dr. Bernadette Manalo-Arcena.
In his decision, Bernal cited Arcena’s affidavit, which proved the elements of grave coercion were present.
She said “the harrowing experience of Navarro affected his mental, emotional and psychological well-being, which constrained him to involuntarily sign the police blotter (entry)” and to admit that he raped Cornejo.
The grave coercion case stemmed after Lee, Cornejo and others allegedly mauled Navarro and forced him to sign a police blotter on January 22, 2014 in the Southern Police District (SPD) headquarters.
The accused told the court that bringing a badly bruised Navarro to police was a form of citizen arrest after they caught him in the act of raping Cornejo inside her condominium unit in Taguig City.
In a consolidated motion in April 2014, the Department of Justice junked the rape and attempted rape charges filed by Cornejo against Navarro for lack of probable cause.
Calleja called Arcena an “incompetent witness” as she was not in the crime scene when Navarro was allegedly coerced by Lee and his company. He noted that the doctor’s affidavit was executed in St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City days after the crime had taken place.
The lawyer slammed Bernal’s failure to appreciate their camp’s lone witness, SPO1 Rolly Laureto, one of the investigators present at SPD when Navarro signed the blotter entry.
“Laureto testified Cornejo and Lee did not exert any violence, threats or intimidation on Navarro when he signed the police blotter report. But surprisingly, Judge Bernal gave weight to the [Dr. Arcena] who was not present in the same police station,” Calleja pointed out. /kga
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