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After parallel probes, Taiwan to insist on criminal liability

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After parallel probes, Taiwan to insist on criminal liability

PARALLEL PROBE Taiwanese investigators use a rubber boat in Manila’s South Harbor to inspect the hull of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship involved in the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel earlier this month. The Taiwanese are here while NBI investigators are in Taiwan to make a parallel investigation. RAFFY LERMA

TAIPEI—Taiwan and the Philippines will discuss the results of their respective investigations into the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in the northern Philippine waters on May 9, but Taipei will insist on criminal liability if warranted, according to an official of Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice.

“Each team will come out with separate reports and in case of major differences, we will again meet to discuss the result, but we will insist on the criminal liability of those who are guilty,” Chen Wen-chen, director general of the International Cross–Straits Legal Affairs, told the Inquirer in an interview Tuesday.

She also said she expected no “major difference in the findings because we are looking at the same evidence.”

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“There is no deadline and the investigators will bring here the evidence they collected, like the slugs. The investigation will take time,” she said.

Investigators from both countries started their parallel investigation on Monday into the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard off Balintang Island at the northernmost part of the Philippines.

Asked about Taiwan’s suspension of the hiring of Filipino workers imposed following the May 9 incident, she said, “Our demands remain the same and we insist on the punishment of those who shot the boat.”

Pingtung County inquiry

In an earlier interview, labor attaché Rey Conferido of Manila Economic and Cultural Office expressed confidence that the crisis would be over by July when most of the Filipino workers were to renew their contracts.

During the inquiry in Pingtung County Tuesday presided by local chief prosecutor Choi Zong Zong, a team of the National Bureau of Investigation questioned the three crew members of the Taiwanese fishing boat allegedly fired on by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Based on accounts of an informant who had access to the investigation room of the county justice hall where the probe was being conducted, the NBI team was seated near the door facing Choi, who was seated in an elevated area, just like court judges.

In the middle of the room were the family of the slain fisherman and the three crew members, including the Indonesian fisherman identified as Imam Buchaeri, 35. It was the first time the Indonesian was seen by media.

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The inquiry started past 2 p.m. and as of press time no one had come out from the investigation room.

The NBI team headed by lawyer Daniel Daganzo arrived at the Pingtung County Prosecutor’s Office before noon and immediately met with the prosecutors.

Based on an earlier account on Friday, the captain of the Taiwanese fishing boat whose father was shot and killed in the May 9 shooting claimed that he and his men were fired upon without provocation, and his family accused the Filipinos of murder.

Denying that his boat had encroached on Philippine waters, the fishing vessel’s captain, Hung Yue-chien, 39, insisted at a press conference that the incident occurred in a “public fishing area.”

Probe in Manila

In Manila on Tuesday, members of the Taiwanese investigative team watched a two-hour video of the incident.

NBI officials later accompanied the team to the port area to inspect Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel manned by PCG personnel that was involved in the incident.

The Taiwanese probers completed the ballistics test on Monday, firing the weapons for cross-matching, according to NBI deputy director Virgilio Mendez.

“I think it’s helpful, of course, for both sides,” Andrew Lin of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office later told reporters. He added that he could not comment further because the investigation was continuing.

He said the inspection of the vessel was a technical issue and that the investigators would depend on the assistance of the NBI and the Coast Guard.

It took the investigators 80 minutes to investigate the BFAR vessel. They were escorted by Commodore Eduardo Guingona, PCG fleet commander.

The Taiwanese investigators were also scheduled to interview BFAR and Coast Guard personnel on Wednesday.

The slugs and shells will be matched with those recovered from the Taiwanese vessel to determine if the firearms turned over by the Coast Guard to NBI are the same weapons used in the May 9 incident.

The NBI team in Taiwan also brought samples of the slugs but the results of the comparison cannot be divulged at the moment, Mendez said.—With reports from Erika Sauler and Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila

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