Taguig judge orders arrest of Cedric, Deniece
Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Taguig City Municipal Trial Court (MTC) has ordered the arrest of Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo and five others accused by comedian Vhong Navarro of grave coercion, a court official confirmed yesterday.

The source told The STAR that Judge Bernard Bernal of the MTC’s Branch 74 had issued the arrest warrants. The source declined to give details.

Lee, Cornejo and five others are facing a separate case of serious illegal detention, which is non-bailable, before the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 271.

The other accused were identified as Lee’s sister Bernice Lee, Zimmer Raz, Jose Paulo Gregorio Calma, Jed Fernandez and Ferdinand Guerrero.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed late yesterday afternoon that the Taguig MTC had issued arrest warrants against Lee and the other accused for the grave coercion case, which is bailable.

A preliminary investigation by a panel of three women prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed that Navarro “was actually restrained or deprived of his liberty against his will.”

Navarro was also beaten and threatened by the group to “demand and extort money or ransom from (him).”

The DOJ panel also junked a counter-charge of rape filed by Cornejo against Navarro, saying her statement on the incident “demonstrates physical improbability.”

The Taguig MTC has set a hearing today on the motion of Lee’s camp for judicial determination of probable cause on the charge of serious illegal detention.

Southern Police District director Chief Superintendent Jose Erwin Villacorte said they would immediately serve the arrest warrants if the accused are within SPD jurisdiction.

A police official and three other policemen were recommended suspended for mishandling the initial rape complaint filed by Cornejo against Navarro.

Senior Inspector Eduardo Alcantara, Police Officers 3 Dalmacio Lumian Jr., Eugene Pugal and Rolly Laureto, all assigned to the SPD’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, were recommended suspended for 20 days without pay by the Internal Affairs Service-National Capital Region (IAS-NCR).

The DOJ had dismissed the rape charges against Navarro but found probable cause to indict Cornejo, Lee and several companions for serious illegal detention and physical injuries.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, Philippine National Police (PNP) Public Information Office (PIO) head, said the IAS-NCR memorandum has been forwarded to the office of NCRPO chief Director Carmelo Valmoria for approval and implementation.

Navarro – Ferdinand Navarro in real life – was accused of raping Cornejo inside her condominium unit in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Cornejo’s male friends including Lee and several others beat up Navarro and brought the actor, whose face was swollen, to the DIDM-SPD at Fort Bonifacio also in Taguig.

Lee’s group claimed they brought Navarro to the police for record purposes and would not pursue the criminal case against him.

The policemen on duty at the time merely took the word of Lee’s group without asking basic questions on who inflicted the injuries on Navarro.

Navarro later claimed he was coerced and was threatened not to report the incident and alleged extortion.

BI stops accused

Meanwhile, one of the accused in the assault of Navarro was prevented from leaving the country by officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

An immigration officer stopped Guerrero at the BI counter when he presented his passport.

NAIA Terminal 3 immigration supervisor Danny Calabio said the immigration officer at the counter referred to him Guerrero’s name, which appeared on the watch list of the BI computer.

Sources said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Taguig Prosecutor’s Office also alerted the BI on the possible departure of the accused in the Navarro case.

Calabio told Guerrero that his name was included in the watch list and the situation needed to be cleared.

Guerrero allegedly responded and told Calabio to call the NBI or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) who knew him, and even said in a loud voice that his name is “Fernando not Ferdinand.”

Guerrero then took his passport and left the airport.

He was scheduled to take the 5:40 a.m. Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 108 bound for Hong Kong when he was stopped at the BI counter.

Last Saturday, a passenger identified as Cedric Lee also booked a flight for Dubai on board a Cebu Pacific jet but after a few hours canceled his booking upon knowing that law enforcers at the NAIA were monitoring him.

De Lima confirmed that she had instructed the BI not to allow Lee, Cornejo or any of their co-accused to leave the country pursuant to a look-out bulletin earlier issued by the DOJ.  â€“ With Rudy Santos, Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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