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SC acquits Vhong Navarro in rape, lasciviousness cases filed by Deniece Cornejo

SC acquits Vhong Navarro in rape, lasciviousness cases filed by Deniece Cornejo. Vhong Navarro (L) and Deniece Cornejo (R). File Photos

Vhong Navarro (L) and Deniece Cornejo (R). File Photos

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) Third Division has dismissed the case for rape by sexual intercourse and acts of lasciviousness filed against  TV host Ferdinand “Vhong” Navarro for lack of probable cause.

In a 42-page decision, the high court reversed the 2022 ruling of the Court of Appeals, saying it “gravely erred” when it granted the appeal filed by model Deniece Cornejo, who claimed the actor-comedian had forced himself on her on two occasions in 2014.

The high court reinstated the findings of the Department of Justice panel of prosecutors who dismissed Cornejo’s complaints due to the “glaring and manifest inconsistencies” of her statement.

“Here, the prosecutor had reasons to doubt the veracity of Cornejo’s accusations, as the glaring and manifest inconsistencies pointed out in her complaints are readily discernible by common sense without need of rigorous examination or an expertise of a trial court judge for such purpose,” the SC said through Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting.

“To suggest that a prosecutor turn a blind eye to such glaring and manifest inconsistencies — under the premise that the evaluation thereof would already touch on the complainant’s credibility to be solely assessed in a full-blown trial — would be to compel the prosecutor to satisfy himself or herself to mere allegations in a complaint, and abdicate his or her bounden duty to screen cases for trial, thus passing the buck to the trial courts,” the SC added.

The SC said inconsistencies in Cornejo’s allegations “are not trivial, minor, or inconsequential.”

“Under the circumstances, the CA simply had no basis for reversing the prosecutor’s finding of lack of probable cause,” the SC said, adding that not the prosecutor but it was the Court of Appeals who “substituted its own judgment for that of the prosecutor’s finding” without any finding of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the prosecutors.

Concurring in the decision are Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Samuel H. Gaerlan, Japar B. Dimaampao, and Maria Filomena D. Singh.

In filing her complaint, Cornejo alleged that Navarro pinned her down and touched her private parts, but when he was about to rape her, her friends arrived at her condominium unit in Taguig City on January 22, 2014.

The model then filed a second complaint alleging that Navarro again assaulted her on January 17, 2014. A third complaint was also filed providing details on the January 17 and 22, 2014 incidents.

But, in dismissing the complaints, the prosecutors said Cornejo’s accounts “suffer from a very serious credibility issue.”

The CA, however, reversed the DOJ prosecutors’ findings, saying “the preliminary investigation is not the proper venue to rule on the respondent’s guilt or innocence.”

The appellate court likewise stated that “the admissibility or inadmissibility of the parties’ evidence should be ventilated before the trial court during the trial proper and not in the preliminary investigation.” EDV


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TAGS: acquitted, acts of lasciviousness, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, Deniece Cornejo, Department of Justice, Prosecutor, rape, Supreme Court, Vhong Navarro
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