Rape rap filed vs Vhong

Taguig court awaiting CA decision on actor’s motion for reconsideration before raffling off the case.

September 3, 2022

The Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office has filed a case against TV host Ferdinand “Vhong” Navarro for allegedly raping model Deniece Cornejo on 17 January 2014.

Said filing of information dated 31 August this year was in compliance with a 21 July order of the Court of Appeals for government prosecutors to let the alleged sexual assault be tried in court.

In that order, the CA junked two resolutions of the Department of Justice that favored Navarro’s contention that he did not rape Cornejo.

Government prosecutors told the Taguig City Regional Trial Court that Navarro raped the model through the use of “force, threat and intimidation.”

Let court decide

The actor purposely intoxicated Cornejo before raping her, the complaint averred.

However, the Taguig court deferred the raffling of the case until the CA has resolved Navarro’s motion for reconsideration against its order to have a court decide who between them is telling the truth.

The CA decision enjoined prosecutors to charge Navarro with rape by sexual intercourse and acts of lasciviousness.

In September 2017, the DoJ found no probable cause to press charges against Navarro in court. The DoJ, in April 2018, then denied Cornejo’s petition for a review of the 2017 resolution.

The twin setbacks before the DoJ prompted Cornejo to seek redress before the appellate court.

The CA said the DoJ erred in denying Cornejo’s petition on the ground that her statements in the complaint-affidavits were inconsistent and incredible.

It said the determination of probable cause does not depend on the validity or merits of a party’s accusation or defense, or on the admissibility or veracity of testimonies presented.

Credibility

In reversing the DoJ, the CA said issues of credibility should be adjudged during trial proper as the court is in the best position to observe the witnesses’ deportment and their credibility.

“Ultimately, it falls upon the trial court to determine who between Navarro and Cornejo speaks the truth. Cornejo decries attempted rape on the night of 22 January 2014 while Navarro denies any wrongdoing on his part,” the CA ruled.

“We reiterate once more that the preliminary investigation is not the proper venue to rule on the respondent’s guilt or innocence. Likewise, whether the other pieces of documentary or electronic evidence presented at the preliminary investigation level are enough to impeach the credibility of the alleged rape victim so as to exculpate the respondent of the crime imputed against him is a matter best left to the scrutiny of the trial court,” it said.

It added that the admissibility of evidence should be ventilated during the trial proper.

The DoJ said it was “not impressed” by Cornejo’s offer of evidence, including two previous rape complaints against Navarro by other women, and the alleged use of a date-rape drug.

Navarro’s lawyer also claimed inconsistencies in Cornejo’s statements.


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