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SC junks rape, acts of lasciviousness charges vs. Vhong Navarro

The Supreme Court's Third Division has dismissed the charges for rape and acts of lasciviousness against television host Vhong Navarro due to lack of probable cause, according to a report on "24 Oras" and a copy of the court decision.

The high court, in a ruling issued on February 8 but was made public on March 13, "reversed and set aside" the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) issued in July 2021 and September 2022 directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to revive the case against Navarro.

"Having determined that the DOJ committed no grave abuse of discretion in affirming the finding of lack of probable cause against Navarro, the Court, in the interest of justice and fair play, is constrained to dismiss the subject Information against him," the SC said.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by Deniece Cornejo against the actor in 2014, which were eventually dismissed by the DOJ.

The CA, however, reversed the DOJ ruling in 2022 that resulted in his temporary detention at the National Bureau of Investigation detention facility before he was transferred at the Taguig City Jail.

Navarro was allowed to post bail by the court in December 2022 after paying P1 million.

The SC said that in reviving the case against Navarro, the "CA gravely erred."

"Here, the prosecutor had reasons to doubt the veracity of Comejo'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 high court said.

"To suggest that a prosecutor tum 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," it added.

It also said that contrary to the ruling of the CA, the inconsistencies in Cornejo's allegations are "not trivial, minor, or inconsequential."

"Indeed, no amount of skillful or artful deportment, manner of speaking, or portrayal in a subsequent court proceeding could supplant Comejo's manifestly inconsistent and highly deficient, doubtful, and unclear accounts of her supposed harrowing experience in the hands of Navarro," the SC said.

It added, "Otherwise, she would be allowed to deliberately change, or worse concoct and fabricate, theories in order to rectify the weakness of her accusations as pointed out by the prosecutors in the dismissal of her previous complaints. Under the circumstances, the CA simply had no basis to reverse the prosecutor's finding of lack of probable cause."

"On the contrary, it is the CA that disregarded such parameters when it substituted its own judgment for that of the prosecutor's finding of lack of probable cause against Navarro," the SC also said.—LDF, GMA Integrated News