De Lima confirms recommendation to file charges vs PCGBy Tetch Torres-Tupas
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has confirmed a recommendation to press charges against some members of the Philippine Coast Guard involved in the shooting incident off Batanes that killed a Taiwanese fisherman.
“I confirm that the NBI has recommended the filing of charges against the PCG personnel involved in the incident,” Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said in a text message to INQUIRER.net. The Justice chief is currently in Madrid, Spain to attend the 5th World Congress Against Death Penalty.
De Lima said criminal and administrative case will be filed against PCG personnel.
No Taiwan pressure
She, however, clarified that the findings of the Philippine government was not influenced nor a product of pressure from Taiwan.
“There was no influence from Taiwan side. [But] hopefully, the conclusions from both side would jibe or are not that different,” De Lima further said.
De Lima, however, declined to give details on what charges will be filed pending clearance from President Benigno Aquino III who already was furnished a copy of the NBI’s findings.
Objective evaluation of evidence
“It is for his consideration and therefore we should give him freehand,” she said.
On whether the findings of the NBI are fair and acceptable to all, she said “there was an objective evaluation of evidence. As to whether it’s acceptable, then it remains to be seen.”
The NBI submitted to the Department of Justice its recommendation after they have completed their investigation on the incident that led to the death of Hung Shih-chen.
The NBI examined both the Coast Guard vessel as well as the Taiwanese vessel. They also have in their possession a video of the incident which was taken by the Coast Guard and testimonies of its personnel, among others.
The Coast Guard claimed it acted in self-defense when the Taiwanese vessel tried to ram its boat in the Balintang Channel.
The May 9 shooting prompted Taiwan to freeze the hiring of Filipino workers and discourage travel to the Philippines.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source, who has knowledge of the investigation of the incident but asked not to be identified because he has no authority to speak on the matter, declined to say whether murder or homicide charges had been recommended.
But the source said there was a debate on whether to bring murder charges against the coast guards, as “superior strength” was used “against an unarmed civilian,” or homicide, as the shooting death of fisherman Hung Shih-chen was “not premeditated.”
“It is a thin report, because the annexes have yet to be forwarded to [Secretary De Lima],” the source said.
The report, according to the source, includes the identities of the coast guards who fired their rifles at Hung’s fishing boat in waters off Balintang Island on May 9.
It also contains the name of the coastguardsman who fired the bullet that killed Hung, the source said.
The shooter was identified through a cross-match between the slug recovered from Hung’s body during autopsy and the signature of the coast guard’s M14 rifle.
The shooting happened in Philippine waters, as the Philippine Coast Guard stated in its report on the incident submitted to the NBI, the source said.
The source said the incident took place within 79.2 kilometers of Philippine territory and 316.8 km from Taiwanese territory.
No attempt to ram
But the Coast Guard’s claim that the fishing boat Guan Ta Hsin 28 tried to ram the coastal patrol vessel MCS-3001 was disproved, the source said.
The Coast Guard claimed that the fishing boat’s hostile move was the reason for its officers’ firing at the vessel, aiming for the engine to make it stop.
But the NBI report says the results of the ballistic tests and trajectory examination on the fishing boat showed the shooters did not know where the engine was, the source said. With a report from Nancy Carvajal