Judge quits Vhong Navarro-Deniece Cornejo case
MANILA, Philippines—The serious illegal detention charges filed by TV host-actor Ferdinand “Vhong” Navarro against businessman Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo and several others would have to be raffled off to another judge after the current one said on Tuesday that she was inhibiting herself from the case.
Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes made the announcement in court and the information was relayed to media by defense and prosecution lawyers right after the hearing held at the Taguig Hall of Justice. Reporters are barred from covering the proceedings.
Cortes’ decision was based on a motion filed by Navarro’s camp after she allowed the accused to post bail on the grounds that there was not enough evidence against them.
Her announcement was welcomed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who earlier expressed her surprise and frustration over the judge’s ruling granting Lee and company bail.
“We appreciate the sense of delicadeza exhibited by the judge, given the manifested loss of faith and confidence on the part of the prosecutors borne out of the highly questionable granting of bail to Cedric Lee, et al., amid the strong and solid evidence presented by the public prosecutors during the bail hearings. A new judge with a fresh perspective and impartial predisposition is needed to obviate miscarriage of justice in that case,” De Lima said in a statement.
Trian Lauang, one of Cornejo’s lawyers, said that Cortes had told both camps that she had “no choice” but to inhibit herself because her “credibility and decision” were being “questioned.”
“She said she did her duty as a judge based on her knowledge of the law and based also on her convictions and morality,” he told reporters.
“But there really are people who do not find [her explanation] unacceptable. Our judges are [only human] that’s why it can’t be helped that when you are being criticized and the other party [says they have lost their trust in you], there’s no other choice but to inhibit,” Lauang added.
But at the same time, he criticized the prosecution for asking Cortes to step down from the case.
“You see how the other camp is. Just one denial and they want an inhibition immediately,” Lauang said, adding that many of their motions were denied although they never once complained.
“What do they want? Is their definition of a judge who is fair and impartial —a judge who always decides in their favor? What do they want? Let’s [just] get the judges from ‘Showtime’ Let’s get Jhong Hilario as the judge next time,” he said, referring to the talent show Navarro co-hosts with Hilario.
Lee, Cornejo and their co-accused Simeon Palma Raz Jr. were freed last week after they posted bail of P500,000 each last week.
Alma Mallonga, Navarro’s lawyer, said that the re-raffling of the case would take place “in the next few days.”
The new judge, she added, would hear the motion for reconsideration filed by their camp on the grant of bail to the accused. With Jerome Aning
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