Deniece Cornejo in high spirits despite 'threats' - Calleja

Posted at 02/07/14 1:17 AM

Model Deniece Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee. File photo

MANILA - The lawyer of model Deniece Cornejo said she remains "in high spirits" amid her legal battle with actor-host Vhong Navarro, whom she accused of raping her last January 22.

Atty. Howard Calleja, the legal counsel of Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee, said his clients are confident of their chances in the case involving Navarro, "because they know they have the truth behind them."

"Eventually, they will be vindicated in the proper forum, not in the people's court, not in this trial by publicity, but in our trial courts," Calleja told ABS-CBN News' Pia Gutierrez on Thursday.

The lawyer was interviewed shortly after Navarro visited the Department of Justice (DOJ) to re-affirm his complaint-affidavit against Lee and Cornejo's group.

The "It's Showtime" co-host filed six criminal charges against the two and six others last January 28: serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention -- a non-bailable offense.

Navarro claimed that he was set up by Cornejo for an extortion attempt allegedly led by Lee. The actor said he was blindfolded and tied up before being attacked by "six to seven men." He also alleged that his private parts were abused and recorded on video, which Lee has denied.

Cornejo, in her rape complaint filed against Navarro last January 29, alleged that she was "rescued" by Lee's group from being sexually assaulted by the actor, which supposedly led to the mauling.

In the days following Navarro's mention of Lee and Cornejo in his "Buzz ng Bayan" interview last January 26, the two became targets of criticism on social media, and have even become the subject of several memes.

According to Calleja, his clients, as well as himself, have started to receive "threats" supposedly from fans of Navarro.

"If you just see Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever other social media, you can see that they have many death threats, rape threats, and other threats. And sabi ko nga, even myself, as lawyer.

"Compared to my other controversial, high-profile cases, I would have them altogether and I would still have more death threats in this case," added Calleja, who is also the legal counsel of former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan in the infamous Maguindanao massacre case.

The lawyer also lamented what he called the "media attention" supposedly favoring Navarro, saying it has worsened the public perception on Lee and Cornejo.

"All this media attention does not solve the issue or doesn't put a rest [to the issue] that on January 22, Vhong Navarro raped Deniece Cornejo. That rape by Vhong Navarro is turned around and he is now shown as the victim instead of the assailant," he said.

"Sa akin nga, in all honesty, if you take away all the personalities in this case, this is a very simple case," he added. "There's nothing complex with this case. The only thing that makes it difficult is the high-profile or the media attention given to this case."

Calleja said this was on top of the "special treatment" given to Navarro by the DOJ, which is supposedly seen in the "swift" handling of his case. He likewise criticized the "batallion" of police escorts assigned to the actor following his claims of threats from Lee.

He nonetheless expressed confidence that the court will favor his clients.

"Siyempre wala kaming laban. Although it is a reality, all I'm saying is that the case is not to be fought in the media, but to be fought in the courts. And in the courts, I'm sure, the truth will prevail and my clients will be vindicated," Calleja said.

The first preliminary investigation hearing on the charges filed by both Navarro and Cornejo has been set on February 14, where the actor's two witnesses have been ordered to appear. A second hearing is scheduled on February 21.