Cedric Lee arrested; Denies running from authorities

Cedric Lee - Zimmer Raz
Mugshots of Cedric Lee and Zimmer Raz

Businessman Cedric Lee, the primary suspect in the Vhong Navarro mauling case, has been arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Oras, Eastern Samar on Saturday, April 26. With him was co-accused Simeon Palma, aka Zimmer Raz. The two are facing grave coercion and serious illegal detention charges, filed by actor-host Vhong Navarro in relation to a mauling incident that happened at Cornejo’s condominium unit in Taguig City last January 22, 2014.

Lee and Raz, currently held at the NBI detention facility in Manila, will be spending time in jail while being tried for the non-bailable charge of serious illegal detention. Other accused in the case, namely, Deniece Cornejo, Sajed Fernandez Abuhijleh (alias Jed Fernandez) and Ferdinand Guerrero remain at large. Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has appealed to the three to surrender now as authorities are already on their tracks.

According to reports, NBI agents were able to track down Lee and Raz in a beach resort in Barangay 13, Dolores, Eastern Samar as early as last Friday, but the two were able to escape authorities by jumping off a wall and hiding at a nearby coconut plantation overnight then proceeded to the adjacent town of Oras, where they were cornered by a joint team of NBI and police operatives.

Before being cornered in East Samar, the two were reportedly spotted in Quezon and Bicol. Another informant reportedly overheard the suspects talking about plans of going to Lapinig, Northern Samar to leave the country and proceed to Taiwan.

Lee and Raz, however, denied that they tried to evade arrest. Lee said in an interview that he and Raz were supposed to surrender themselves to the authorities as soon as they return to Manila after a business trip to the province. He admitted running away from NBI agents only because they thought they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA). He also described the manhunt for him and his colleagues as “overkill” as if they were hardened criminals.

Meanwhile, the co-accused who was previously reported to have expressed desire to turn state witness was identified as Jed Fernandez. However, veteran broadcast journalist Tony Canvento revealed in an interview aired on Buzz ng Bayan on Sunday that Secretary de Lima has informed him that Fernandez backed out due to undisclosed reason.

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