The Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the City Prosecutor of Taguig City to charge TV host and actor Vhong Navarro with rape and acts of lasciviousness in connection with the complaint filed by model-stylist Deniece Milinette Cornejo.
In a 26-page resolution dated July 21, 2022, the 14th Division of the CA reversed the previous resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 30, 2018, and July 14, 2020.
The CA decision was penned by Associate Justice Florencio Mamauag Jr., seconded by Associate Justices Victoria Isabel Paredes and Mary Charlene Hernandez-Azura.
On April 30, 2018, the DOJ dismissed the petition for review filed by Cornejo. This is the result of the September 2017 resolution that it appears that there is no “probable cause” or sufficient basis to file the case against Navarro in court.
Cornejo accused Vhong Navarro of abuse on January 17 and 22, 2014. On January 22, 2014, Navarro was beaten by a group of businessman Cedric Lee, who allegedly helped Cornejo.
Vhong Navarro sustained injuries in the incident and was taken to the hospital.
However, the CA said the DOJ erred in dismissing Cornejo’s petition.
“It was erroneous for the DOJ to deny Cornejo’s petition for review on the ground that her statements in the complaint-affidavits are inconsistent and incredible. In this regard, it bears to stress that the determination of probable cause does not depend on the validity or merits of a party’s accusation or defense or on the admissibility or veracity of testimonies presented,” said CA.
CA orders Taguig prosecutors to file rape case vs. Vhong Navarro
The CA added that the credibility issue should be left to the court’s hearing.
“Ultimately, it falls upon the trial court to determine who between Navarro and Cornejo speaks the truth. Cornejo decries attempted rape on the night of January 22, 2014 while Navarro denies any wrongdoing on his part,” said the magistrates.
“We reiterate once more that the preliminary investigation is not the proper venue to rule on the respondent’s guilt or innocence,” it added.
The CA also criticized Vhong Navarro’s admission of alleged consensual oral sex with Cornejo on January 17, 2014.
“Given the peculiar nature of rape, it almost always presents a ‘he said, she said’ scenario which leaves the trial court the task of deciding whom between the private complainant or the accused should it believe. On one hand, justice must be rendered to a rape victim bearing in mind that she is physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially scarred,” the CA insisted in the decision.