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Monday, July 15, 2024

Three found guilty of coercion

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A city court judge found businessman Cedric Lee, former model Deniece Cornejo and co-accused Jed Fernandez guilty of grave coercion, in a case filed against them by the Department of Justice in connection with the January 2014 mauling of comedian and television host Vhong Navarro inside a condominium in Taguig City.

In a 50-page decision, Judge Bernard Pineda Bernal of Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 74 sentenced the accused to “suffer the indeterminate penalty of six months of arresto mayor as minimum, to three years and six months of prison correccional medium as maximum.” 

Meanwhile, Lee’s sister Bernice was acquitted for lack of evidence. 

In his sworn statement, Navarro claimed that after being mauled and detained at a condominium unit, the group forced him to sign a police blotter admitting he tried to sexually assault Cornejo. 

Apart from grave coercion, Navarro also filed a separate case of serious illegal detention against the three and two others—Ferdinand Guerrero and Simeon Raz Jr. 

In September 2014, Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes of Taguig Regional Trial Court branch 271 decided to inhibit from handling the case after granting the bail petition of Cornejo, Lee and Raz in the serious illegal detention case.

The court granted the petition for bail of the accused after the prosecution panel “failed to provide strong evidence that said illegal detention is actually serious or actually for the sake of kidnapping.”

Prosecuting lawyer Alma Mallonga said they still have faith in the judicial system but admitted they were shocked with the decision of the court allowing the accused to post bail.

Both cases (grave coercion and serious illegal detention) stemmed from the January 22, 2014 mauling of Navarro inside Forbeswood Heights Condominium Taguig City where Cornejo stays. 

Navarro also claimed the respondents mauled and tried to extort up to P2 million from him while he was inside Cornejo’s unit. 

 Video footages showed Navarro in a bull cap leaving the building, with his hands tied behind his back, along with eight people including Lee and Cornejo around 11 pm.

Navarro is currently out of the country along with his co-hosts in the noontime television program “Showtime.”

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