The Third Division of the Supreme Court has dismissed the rape and lasciviousness charges against television host Vhong Navarro for lack of probable cause, according to a report on “24 Oras” and a copy of the court decision.
In a ruling issued on February 8 and made public on March 13, the Supreme Court “reversed and set aside” the July 2021 and September 2022 directives of the Court of Appeals (CA) to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to revive the case against Navarro.
“Having determined that the Department of Justice did not commit a serious abuse of discretion in affirming the lack of probable cause against Navarro, the Court, in the interest of justice and fair play, is compelled to dismiss the Information against him,” the Supreme Court stated.
The case originated from Deniece Cornejo’s 2014 complaint against the actor, which was ultimately dismissed by the DOJ.
In 2022, the CA reversed the DOJ decision that led to his temporary detention at the National Bureau of Investigation detention facility prior to his transfer to the Taguig City Jail.
The court allowed Navarro to post bail in December 2022 after he paid P1 million.
The Court of Appeals made a grave error in reviving the case against Navarro, according to the Supreme Court.
“Here, the prosecutor had reason to doubt the veracity of Comejo’s allegations, as the glaring and manifest inconsistencies in her complaints are readily discernible by common sense without the need for a rigorous examination or the expertise of a trial court judge,” the high court said.
“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 assessed solely in a full-blown trial-would be to compel the prosecutor to satisfy himself or herself with mere allegations in a complaint, and abdicate his or her bounden duty to screen cases for trial, thereby passing the buck to the trial courts,” the document added.
Contrary to the CA’s decision, the court stated that the inconsistencies in Cornejo’s allegations are “not trivial, minor, or insignificant.”
“Indeed, no amount of skillful or artistic demeanor, manner of speech, or portrayal in a subsequent court proceeding could replace Comejo’s manifestly inconsistent and highly deficient, doubtful, and unclear accounts of her alleged harrowing experience at Navarro’s hands,” the Supreme Court stated.
It continued, “Otherwise, she would be permitted to deliberately alter, or even worse, concoct and fabricate, theories to compensate for the weakness of her accusations, as highlighted by the prosecutors in their dismissal of her prior complaints. Under the circumstances, the CA had no grounds to overturn the prosecutor’s lack of probable cause determination.”
“In fact, it was the court of appeals that disregarded these parameters when it substituted its own judgment for the prosecutor’s finding of lack of probable cause against Navarro,” the Supreme Court added.
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