A part of me has felt intuitively protective toward Deniece Cornejo from the start. Is it the maternal part of me? She is a young woman, after all, who clearly is in over her head. Add to that the fact that an overwhelming part of the Philippines has been openly brutal to her. And her life, as it slowly unfolds to the public, hints of a dark world that has no happy ending. But as an analyst and a public advocate participating in this public discourse, I want to wring her neck, or whoever is her current ghostwriter or publicist.
Deniece is behaving like a bad liar, at best, and a helplessly stupid person at worst.
Two days ago, Deniece issued a statement by sending an e-mail to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (the “Inquirer statement”) to address two rumors about her: (1) She is a prostitute who accepts appointments by telephone (a call girl), and (2) She purchased a laptop on January 26, 2014 to tamper with evidence against her in a series of criminal cases.
The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (“the NBI”) is conducting a preliminary investigation into these aforementioned cases. Because of these charges, Deniece is currently at high risk of spending a very long time in prison. Before that happens, before the government can take away her freedom, the government (via the NBI) needs to gather sufficient evidence to meet their constitutional burden – at least, theoretically they do. The sensible thing for Deniece to do is to be very, very quiet. Instead, she leaves herself wide open for the government and the public to underscore the impression that she is a liar. Why is NO ONE in her corner telling her to shut up?
Below, I will walk you through why her Inquirer statement paints her as a bad liar, at best, and a really, really stupid person, at worst. It is the mental walk that has led me to a rather unsettling epiphany. Please bear with me until the end.
The following are the Undisputed Facts of her case:
- Soledad Ramos, a Philippine national, owns a unit (“the unit”) in Forbeswood Heights condominium in a district area in Manila called “The Fort” in Taguig City, a seven-minute drive (without traffic) to Makati City, the country’s metropolis.
- Gregory Binunus (“Gregory”), a Malaysian national conducting business in the Philippines, is the legal tenant of the unit.
- In December 2013, Gregory and Deniece meet for the first time at Room 526 Piano Bar and Restaurant (“the Bar”), located in Malate, Manila.
- Deniece was a previous employee at the Bar.
- Gregory, with the permission of Soledad, authorized Deniece to occupy and live in the unit from January 15, 2014 for a period of two months.
- Deniece occupied the unit on January 15, 2014.
- On January 17, 2014, Vhong Navarro (“Vhong”), a Philippine celebrity, went to the unit for the first time as Deniece’s invited guest at around 10PM.
- On January 22, 2014, Vhong went to the unit for the second time as Deniece’s invited guest at around 10PM. While at the unit, Cedric Lee (and others, disputedly) beat up and bound Vhong. Lee’s action contributed to Vhong suffering severe injuries such as facial fractures, contusions, deformity of the nasal bridge, and leg abrasions.
- Cedric Lee was at the unit on January 22, 2014 as Deniece’s invited guest.
- Deniece maintains that Vhong raped her January 22, 2014.
- Deniece owns and operates Dark Closet International (“the Shop”), an online shop selling clothes, fashion accessories, and beauty products.
- Deniece is twenty-two years old.
- Deniece is working on a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
- Deniece bought a laptop with video editing capacity from a store in Quezon City on January 26, 2014.
The following are newly alleged facts by Deniece under the Inquirer statement:
- Deniece has a client (“the Buyer”) of her Shop who works at the Bar.
- The Buyer gave Gregory Deniece’s number, with the intent of Gregory buying some goods from the Shop, earning the Buyer commission fees.
- Gregory contacts Deniece and they met at the Bar for a business meeting where Gregory is a potential buyer of her online goods from the Shop.
- At that meeting, Gregory mentioned that he is scheduled to open a restaurant business (“the Restaurant”) in The Fort area, the same area where the subject unit is located.
- At that meeting, Deniece mentioned to Gregory that she is a hospitality management student, who also works as a model and therefore regularly conducts business in Makati, and in need of a place to live near Makati.
- At that meeting, Gregory mentioned the Unit, a unit he vacated due to a robbery, and therefore available, but the lease term ends in two months.
- From that meeting, Deniece and Gregory entered into an oral contract where Deniece will provide professional services to Gregory in connection with the Restaurant, and in exchange she gets to live in the unit for two months.
- The specific roles and services that Deniece must provide for the Restaurant include branding, management, and endorsement.
- Deniece bought the subject laptop on January 26, 2104 for the purpose of continuing her creative work in fashion and design, and researching the phenomenon of victim blaming – where women who claim rape are further victimized by people who blame them for the conduct of the rapist.
The Naiveté of the Inquirer Statement
If I were a learned judge or an adult who has lived long enough on earth to understand how life actually works, and I read the statements above, I will have the following questions:
- Why in the world would an international businessman entrust the branding, management, and endorsement of his upcoming restaurant to a hospitality student whom he just met and does not own a marketable brand, does not have actual experience in restaurant management, and has not even earned a bachelor’s degree?
- Why would an international businessman enter into an oral agreement for the branding, management, and endorsement of his restaurant?
- Why would a party to a contract (Deniece) accept, as sufficient consideration, a two-month housing in a condominium that has been pitched to her as vacated because it was robbed, in exchange for the huge responsibility of branding, management, and endorsing an upcoming restaurant?
- Why would a potential buyer phone her to buy goods from her online Shop?
- Why would an international businessman buy from Deniece’s online store that requires the inconvenience of placing a phone call to the Shop’s owner and having a face-to-face meeting at a bar when he could easily purchase the same goods from the retail shops of the manufacturers? [Note: Typical items sold by the Shop are bags from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc.]
- Where does a twenty-two year old, without a bachelor’s degree or old family wealth, get the kind of capital necessary to put up a business such as her Shop, the type that warrants an international business man to personally phone its owner for a business meeting?
- Where is the lease agreement between Soledad and Gregory to clarify whether the lease will, in fact, terminate at the end of February, as Deniece now claims or would it continue as Gregory claims?
- Where are the government permits for this alleged Restaurant that Gregory owns and Deniece is supposed to manage?
- Why don’t we get Gregory on the stand and ask him if he, in fact, phoned Deniece in December 2013 for the purpose of buying goods from her online Shop and ended up entering into an oral agreement with Deniece to be the endorser and branding and operational manager of his upcoming Restaurant?
After reading this Inquirer statement, my heart aches a little for the person that is Deniece Cornejo. What happened to you in your childhood that turned you into an adult who pathologically lies?
You know, I have never cared about the rumors that people try to spread about Deniece. Whether or not she is a call girl is irrelevant, I thought. And the feminist in me resents those who openly abuse women in the sex industry. Prostitutes are the underdogs of society who could really use our protection. Nothing less than a really hard road leads women to prostitution. A prostitute is being raped at every instance of transaction. A prostitute is further violated by her pimp on an ongoing basis. The physical toll of prostitution is nothing compared to the mental assault it inflicts on the woman – the type of damage that lasts in perpetuity. NO ONE enters prostitution at their will. They do it because they believe it is the only choice they have.
I do not know if Deniece is a call girl. Before I wrote this entry, I knew that a call girl is some kind of prostitute but I didn’t know why they are called call girls. But there is one part of Deniece’s statement that caught my eye:
Gregory Binunus called Deniece Cornejo, who got her phone number from an employee of The Piano Bar, for a business purpose, and they met at The Piano Bar in December 2013.
Wait. Didn’t Gregory say they randomly met at a party?
Many years ago, I was in a foreign city on a business trip. It is a city known for prostitution. I stayed at the same five-star hotel for an extended period of time. I conducted the same business, in the same city, for several years and returned to the same hotel. I became familiar with the ladies who worked the hotel’s fancy bar where I found myself spending my evenings to stave off the loneliness that comes with such extended business trips. One night, after returning that year, one of the girls came up to me with a smile from ear to ear. She seemed so happy to see me and I was pleased to see her. After our pleasantries, she asked me if I remember her friend. I said with a smile from ear to ear, “Of course, how is she?” “She died of AIDS,” she says. I was stunned. I was stunned the most by the nonchalance in her voice when she told me that her friend died, and died with AIDS.
I realized at that moment how fortunate I am because I have been spared from truly knowing the dark corners of this world, but one is never ever truly insulated from it. It was an unsettling moment.
A part of me feels protective of Deniece – and I just realized that part of me is the person who grew familiar with the ladies from that bar in that city. They were young, beautiful, in black gowns, and always smiling. At the surface, it is so easy to dismiss or hate them because they appear to effortlessly have the world as their oyster, preoccupied with nothing more than being pretty. Then one day, you hear their dark story.
I remember the first time I got wind of the Vhong Navarro story and my reaction to what Deniece looks like. She is gorgeous. Why would a woman who has the world as her oyster be involved in something this stupid? Then I recall a lunch one summer with a friend who is a psychoanalyst. I joked that he would never be able to apply his skill on me because I would never give him the opportunity by revealing something personal about me. With a mouth full of matzah ball he said, “I don’t need you to say anything to me. You have said everything the world ever needs to know.” He then points to the black baby-T I was wearing that had the word, C R U E L, in cursive, red font across my chest area.
“Son of a bitch,” I thought. That was a tough period of my life.
I remember my reaction when I first learned that Deniece owns an online business called, “DarkCloset International.” I couldn’t get over how this twenty-two year old woman could put up that kind of business. And as an offhand thought, I asked, “Why? WHY would she call her shop, DARK CLOSET? Isn’t that trying a little bit too hard?”
Then I immersed myself in her seemingly naive Inquirer statement, a statement that now has a different ring to it. And for the first time, I hear Deniece’s words that no cares to hear, “I am a rape victim.”
Son of a bitch.