Former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta-Cabanero and actor Vhong Navarro. Composite image
MANILA - "She brought this on. She made this decision to detail this lurid fairytale about something that happened. She has to bear the consequences."
These were the words of Vhong Navarro's legal counsel, Atty. Alma Mallonga, in revealing their plan of filing perjury and libel cases against former pageant contestant Roxanne Acosta Cabanero, who has accused the actor of raping her four years ago.
Speaking with ABS-CBN News' Ginger Conejero on Thursday, Mallonga said they are also planning to sue the group of businessman Cedric Lee and Deniece Cornejo on similar charges, in relation to the controversial January 22 incident at Cornejo's condominium unit in Taguig.
"It's too much, lalo na 'yong kay Roxanne. I think it is about time to show that we will not take this sitting down. It's too much," Mallonga said.
"I think we have to do the right thing. And though it will take a little more effort on the part of Vhong, I think we should do this and say, 'Vhong will not be a punching bag.' Sobra na 'yung pagpapahirap na ginawa sa kanya. Hanggang ngayon, siya pa ang ginagawang masama. He is being victimized all over again and this is not right."
Mallonga said they are planning to file the complaint on March 13, the day of the first preliminary investigation into Cabanero's rape charge.
In her complaint-affidavit filed last February 19, Cabanero alleged she was raped by Navarro at around 11 p.m. on April 24, 2010 after he supposedly fetched her from Astoria Hotel in Pasig, where she claimed to have stayed as a contestant in Miss Bikini Philippines.
However, Cabanero's legal counsel, Atty. Virgilio Batalla, on Wednesday denied that his client's complaint specified the date the alleged sexual assault took place, following the testimony of comedian Vice Ganda contradicting their claim.
Vice Ganda, in his sworn statement to be included as evidence in Navarro's counter-affidavit, said the actor was among the guest performers at his concert held at Island Cove resort in Cavite, on the same night Cabanero alleged she was raped.
In his statement, Vice Ganda said Navarro was already at the venue in the afternoon, hours before the show was scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m.
The comedian earlier said the concert started late and ended at around midnight, adding that Navarro was among the last to go on stage as he was a special guest.
The management of Island Cove, in a separate interview, confirmed that Navarro was at the resort on the night of April 24, 2010.
In an interview on "Buzz ng Bayan" aired last Sunday, Astoria Plaza project director Ric Valenzuela also denied it housed pageant contestants in April 2010, contrary to Cabanero's claim. He said that while the Miss Bikini Philippines event was offered to them, it did not push through.
Miss Bikini Philippines, in a statement given to ABS-CBN News on Thursday, also denied that its 2010 pageant was hosted by the hotel in Pasig.
"Obviously, she is lying about this," Mallonga said on Thursday, referring to Cabanero. "We have clear evidence that she is lying about this. She was very specific about the date, time, and place. And we have all the evidence to show that she is lying."
"She filed this complaint about an incident that happened four years ago, and it's very clear that she is stating a lie, not only about what happened to her, but also the circumstances surrounding it."
Consequences and liability
"There are consequences, and the consequence is you can be held liable for perjury," Mallong said. For going out in interviews, publicly defaming Vhong, making it appear that he's that kind of person, she's also liable for libel. And that's what we are preparing to do, and we are going to do this sooner rather than later."
Mallonga reiterated her suspicion that Cabanero has ties with Lee, who is among the 8 respondents in the criminal charges filed by Navarro in connection with the January 22 incident.
Lee and his group are facing charges for serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention, which is 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, tied up, and attacked by "6 to 7 men" inside Cornejo's condominium unit.
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.
The Department of Justice's third preliminary investigation into the case involving Cornejo is scheduled on Friday.
"I have a reason to believe that all of these allegations now of rape are simply a way of further inflict harm upon Vhong, to somehow harrass him, and to delude the public and divert their attention from the issue," Mallonga said, referring to Navarro's legal battle with Lee's group.
"I think now they are desparate because the evidence is so clear. So what they are doing now is pure diversion. 'Let us destroy Vhong.' Isn't it enough that Vhong has been brutalized, traumatized, treated with so much disrespect, dehumanized? And hanggang ngayon, this thing is still being done to him."
Cabanero earlier denied having any connection with Lee or Cornejo, whom she has referred to as an "inspiration" in filing her own rape complaint.
"Hindi ko sila kilala," Cabanero told ABS-CBN News' Doris Bigornia in a February 21 interview. "And as much as possible, ayokong maapektuhan ang kaso ko dahil dito. Ayokong ma-link sa kanila. 'Yung kaso ko, kaso ko. Sa kanila, sa kanila."
Asked if their camp has found evidence that would connect Cabanero and Lee, Mallonga said, "To me, right now, it does not matter whether or not Cedric funded the complaint of Roxanne. The complaint for perjury and libel stands on its own, even without the Cedric Lee connection, because bottomline -- it is not true, hindi siya ni-rape ni Vhong."
The lawyer expressed confidence in their planned case against Cabanero, saying the new rape complaint will not distract Navarro from seeing through his charges against Lee's group.
"Vhong and those who are committed to help him will not be distracted. We will remain focused on the issue, we will remain focused on the agenda, which is to make the people responsible for the crime stand trial in court. That's what we are waiting for."