Why Kapunan questions Deniece's credibility

Posted at 03/04/14 1:52 AM

Model Deniece Cornejo and businessman Cedric Lee (back) attend the Department of Justice's preliminary investigation last February 22 on the mauling incident involving actor Vhong Navarro. Photo: ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Lawyer Lorna Kapunan believes that the new statement of model Deniece Cornejo in relation to her rape charge against actor Vhong Navarro has hurt her credibility.

Kapunan, who is not a representative of either party, was asked for her legal opinion on Cornejo's case in an interview on "Buzz ng Bayan" aired Sunday.

"Hindi makakatulong 'yon, because napupunta iyon sa kredibilidad na ng tao," Kapunan said, referring to the counter-affidavit submitted by Cornejo last February 22 in the criminal cases filed against her by Navarro.

In her sworn statement, Cornejo alleged she was sexually assaulted by Navarro on January 17 at her condominium unit in Taguig, five days before she was allegedly raped by the actor a second time at the same place.

Cornejo made no mention of sexual assault on the 17th in her initial affidavit in the rape complaint she filed against Navarro last January 29.

In his complaint-affidavit in relation to the January 22 incident, Navarro said he and Cornejo had oral sex on January 17 during their first meeting. This was denied by Cornejo's legal counsel, Atty. Howard Calleja, in a January 30 interview.

However, Calleja, in a February 25 interview, said he never denied that his client had sexual relations with Navarro during their first meeting.

"Wala ho kaming dini-deny," he said at the time. "Ang sinasabi ko nga, malinaw po 'yon, even in the affidavit of Deniece. We were just silent about it. Hindi kami nag-deny. Wala kaming sinabing walang nangyari."

Explaining why Cornejo only detailed the alleged rape on January 17 in her counter-affidavit, Calleja said, "We have to give leeway and understanding to the rape victim. It is hard enough to relive one experience again and again and again. And it's harder to relive two or three or more than one experience."

Kapunan, however, is not convinced, saying the CCTV footage showing those involved in the incidents on January 17 and 22 contradict Calleja's claim of "trauma."

"Although sinasabi nila, 'Eh na-rape siya kaya siya na-traumatize' -- puwedeng mangyari 'yon -- pero meron tayong ebidensya na pinakita sa publiko, 'yung CCTV tape, na 'yung actuations ng Deniece sa CCTV tape ay hindi consistent sa isang na-rape," she said.

Kapunan also raised the question as to why Cornejo agreed to meet Navarro a second time on January 22 at her condominium unit, after what supposedly transpired five days earlier.

"Kung ang theory nila ay rape 'yon, e bakit inimbita pa si Mr. Vhong Navarro a second instance at nag-te-text-text pa sila, at parang friendly. Because if you were raped the first time, bakit pa niya inimbita?"

Cornejo's new statements, Kapunan added, may work against her in court, noting the "changes" in her account of the alleged rape incidents.

"Ang mali doon is kung nagsabi ka na ng istorya mo under oath tapos nagpalit ka, eh 'di it goes into the tinatawag na credibility ng witness or ng complainant. Hindi ka puwedeng magpalit-palit ng istorya.

"Ang huwes, ang judge ay hindi na maniniwala sa'yo, unless may reasonable explanation kung bakit nagpalit ng istorya, kagaya ng traumatized or selective memory loss," she said.

Kapunan added: "Huwag namin natin babuyin ang batas kasi ang kailangan lang malaman ng tao ay kung ano 'yung totoo. At those who should be penalized, ang dapat parusahan ay parusahan na. Huwag na palakihin itong circus na 'to."

Navarro's legal counsel, Atty. Alma Mallonga has said their camp will file charges of libel and perjury against Cornejo and her group.

These will be in addition to the earlier criminal charges filed by Navarro in relation to the January 22 incident: serious physical injuries, grave threat, grave coercion, unlawful arrest, blackmail, and serious illegal detention, which is a non-bailable offense.

The Department of Justice is set to hold a fourth hearing on the case on March 7.