Model Deniece Cornejo (wearing cap), one of five people charged with serious illegal detention in connection with the January 22 mauling of actor Vhong Navarro, surrenders to authorities at Camp Crame on Monday. Accompanying Cornejo, to her left, is grand uncle Rod. Photo: ABS-CBN News
'She was never in Samar,' says family lawyer
MANILA (5th UPDATE) - Model Deniece Cornejo, one of five people charged with serious illegal detention in connection with the January 22 mauling of actor Vhong Navarro, surrendered on Monday afternoon to authorities.
Cornejo arrived at Camp Crame in Quezon City at around 4 p.m., PNP Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said.
Cornejo was accompanied by her immediate family, including granduncle Rod, and the older Cornejo's legal counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio.
According to Sindac, Cornejo was brought to the office of PNP chief Alan Purisima to discuss her surrender.
"Siya ay nagprisinta ng sarili niya and she appeared before the chief PNP (Purisima) and had a short talk [with him]," Sindac told ANC. "It was a short conversation. [Purisima] has emphasized that she will be treated fairly and will be given the proper treatment."
Cornejo was then transported via a coaster to the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) building, where she was processed under the Women and Children Protection Desk.
At around 7 p.m., Cornejo was temporarily detained at CIDG's Anti-Transnational Crime Unit. She shared a detention cell with a number of female inmates.
Cornejo will be brought to the Taguig Regional Trial Court on Tuesday, CIDG head Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong told DZMM.
According to Atty. Coney Aquino, one of Cornejo's lawyers, their camp will file a petition for bail in the serious illegal detention case for supposed lack of evidence against her client.
Cornejo's co-accused, Cedric Lee and Simeon "Zimmer" Raz, Jr., were arrested for the same non-bailable offense in Oras, Eastern Samar last April 25 after weeks in hiding.
Sindac said they have yet to verify whether Cornejo was hiding with Lee and Raz, following evidence that the two had a female companion in Samar. However, Topacio denied that Cornejo was in the area with her co-accused.
"I'm not at liberty to tell you where she was but I believe that there's no harm in saying that... she was never there," Topacio told ANC.
'Confident of innocence'
Topacio, a friend of Rod Cornejo, said Deniece had long wanted to surface because she is confident of her innocence in the controversy involving Navarro.
"I think she really wanted to give up and face the accusations against her being very confident of her innocence," Topacio said. "Of course, she is young and being accused of these things, she was [making up her] mind about it, and because of the uncertainty as to what will happen."
Topacio added: "I think having received good counsel from her lawyers, and also from her relatives, she finally decided to turn herself in and face the charges."
The lawyer said Cornejo was also encouraged to surrender after learning of her grand uncle Rod's plea for her to face the charges against her.
Asked what his role is in the surrender of Cornejo, Topacio clarified that Atty. Howard Calleja remains as the model's legal counsel.
Topacio said he only "helped with the process whereby [Cornejo] could safely appear, without any threat to her life, and then be taken into custody by the authorities."
While Topacio did not disclose details of the surrender, ABS-CBN News learned that Cornejo's family contacted PNP Human Rights Affairs Office head Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Banas, with whom they are acquainted, to express Deniece's intention to surrender.
Aside from Cornejo, Lee, and Raz, arrest warrants for serious illegal detention were issued against Ferdinand Guerrero and Jed Fernandez -- who remain at large.
All five, plus Lee's sister Bernice and Jose Paolo Calma, were issued separate arrest warrants for grave coercion.
Bernice, Cornejo and Fernandez earlier posted P12,000 bail each for the criminal offense. Calma, meanwhile, left the Philippines last April 10 despite a lookout bulletin order mentioning his name.
Lee and his co-accused have claimed that they had to attack Navarro to supposedly rescue Cornejo, who alleged that she was raped by the actor when he visited her last January 22 at her condominium unit at Forbeswood Heights in Taguig.
Navarro denied raping Cornejo and alleged that he was blindfolded, tied up and mauled by Lee's group. The "It's Showtime" co-host claimed that Lee's group forced him to say on camera that he raped Cornejo, and that they used the video and a police blotter detailing the alleged rape to threaten him against reporting the incident.
The Department of Justice has since dismissed Cornejo's rape complaint against Navarro.
Meanwhile, Navarro's manager, film director Chito Rono said the timing of Cornejo's surrender of "suspicious," and advised the actor and his legal team "to be ver cautious for any drama." -- Reports from Edwin Sevidal, Zhander Cayabyab, DZMM; Doland Castro, ABS-CBN News; ANC