Homicide raps filed vs 8 PCG personnel over Balintang Channel shooting
The eight members of the Philippine Coast Guard who figured in a shooting incident in Balintang Channel last May 9, 2013 that killed a Taiwanese fisherman and caused a diplomatic row are charged with homicide and obstruction of justice by the Justice department. VIDEO/RYAN LEAGOGO, INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice filed on Tuesday homicide and obstruction of justice case against eight Philippine Coast Guard men involved in the Balintang Channel shooting last May 9, 2013.
Charged were the following:
Commander Officer Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz
Seaman First Class (SFC) Ebrando Quiapo Aguila
SFC Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo
SFC Sunny Galang Masangcay
SFC Henry Baco Solomon
Seaman Second Class Nicky Renold Aurello
Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz
In a 79-page resolution, the panel of prosecutors headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said there exist probable cause to prosecute the 8 coast guard officers.
“The Panel found, among others, that “the respondents all acted in unison with the common purpose of firing at the Guang Da Xing 28 to force it to submit to MCS-3001’s inspection,” the resolution said.
It added that “conspiracy was established by the National Bureau of Investigation when it presented the fact that orders were given and the orders were obeyed and efficiently implemented with fatal consequences…That they all acted with that common purpose is crystal clear. When there is conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.”
The resolution said the Taiwanese fisherman was killed as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck, which was caused by a bullet from a gun fired by Aguila quoting a report of examination by Dr. Pan Zhi-Xin of the Institute of Forensic Medicine who examined the body.
However, the DOJ said the Philippines was not able to conduct the re-autopsy to confirm the findings of Dr. Pan. Still it noted in its resolution that the Taiwanese doctor is prepared to take the witness stand to testify on his personal knowledge.
The panel also said they also found no evidence to indicate or to prove that the Taiwanese fishing vessel posed an imminent or grave danger to the respondents before and during the pursuit.
“Absent clear evidence of such, the argument of self-defense cannot prosper in the preliminary investigation where probable cause is all that is needed for the filing of an information in court. The argument of self-defense is thus better left threshed out in the trial and determined by the trial court after a full-blown hearing,” the resolution said.
But Dela Cruz, Lieutenant Junior Grade Martin Larin Bernabe, SN1 Ramirez and SN1 Bendo were cleared of another obstruction charges related to the deletion of video clips of the sea chase and the subsequent shooting.
Likewise, it said that ocular inspections the NBI team Taiwan showed that “there are no perforations on MCS-3001 which is consistent with the fact that there was no ramming or attempt to ram against MCS-3001.
On the claim of the respondents of fulfillment or performance of lawful duty, the prosecutors held that “being a hostile vessel per se does not authorize the use of deadly force under the Coast Guard Rules of Engagement,” it added.
Under the Coast Guard Rules of Engagement, the use of deadly force is taken only as a last resort when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve objectives such as slowing down, refusing to stop or conducting evasive actions when challenged.
“In this case, Respondents have not enumerated the other less extreme means that they should have done pursuant to the Rules of Engagement to actually stop the boat, aside from the warning shots and successive actual gunfire to disable the boat,” the resolution said.
The panel said that even if MCS (Maritime Control Ship) may have been regularly performing its duties at the Balintang Channel, at some later point, the successive firing at the Taiwanese fishing vessel when there was no imminent and grave danger and when other less extreme means could have first been undertaken, “exceeded the performance of lawful duty.”
“A law enforcer is never justified in using unnecessary force or in treating the offender with wanton violence, or in resorting to dangerous means when the arrest could be effected otherwise,” the resolution further said.
Despite its ruling, the panel of prosecutors said their resolution “should not be construed as a carte blanche for Taiwanese fishermen to illegally enter and poach within Philippine territorial waters with impunity.”
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