MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the granting of bail to model Deniece Cornejo, businessman Cedric Lee and Simon “Zimmer” Raz who were charged with serious illegal detention over the mauling of TV host and actor Ferdinand “Vhong” Navarro in January 2014.
In a 15-page decision penned by Associate Justice Renato Francisco, and concurred in by Associate Justices Sesinando Villon Manuel Barrios, the CA’s Ninth Division said that “while Navarro had indeed been detained, there is a possibility that said detention might be legal in view of citizen’s arrest and not for the purpose of kidnapping. Clearly, the evidence of guilt presented by the prosecution failed to exclude all reasonable probability of any other conclusion; hence the RTC is justified in granting the application for bail.”
The appellate court further said that “if the prosecution’s evidence does not establish or amount to a great presumption of guilt, the trial court has discretion to grant the bail in favor of the accused.”
The National of Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Lee and Raz on April 26, 2014 in Samar on the strength of a “no bail” warrant issued by the Taguig Regional Trial Court, while Cornejo voluntarily surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on May 4 of the same year.
On September 18, 2014, however, Judge Esperanza Paz Cortes, upon motion, allowed the accused to post bail in the amount of PHP500,000 each, saying that “the evidence of guilt of the prosecution was not strong”. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Navarro appealed the decision, alleging “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of the trial judge.
The camp of Cornejo, meanwhile, hailed the decision of the Court of Appeals.
“The Court of Appeals has vindicated the honor and dignity of a woman who was sexually wronged, and saw through the lies being perpetrated by Mr. Navarro to hide his lewd shenanigans,” Cornejo’s counsel Ferdinand Topacio said in a statement.
The DOJ has earlier junked rape charges filed by Cornejo against Navarro.