PCG men in Balintang shooting plead not guilty
MANILA, Philippines—Six of the seven Philippine Coast Guard personnel facing homicide case in connection with the death of a Taiwanese fisherman last year entered a not guilty plea at their arraignment before the Batanes Regional Trial Court.
Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera told reporters in a text message that the arraignment pushed through after the court denied the motion to quash (dismiss) the information (charge sheet) filed by the accused.
In their motion to quash, they said the prosecution failed to present evidence to bolster the case. They said there was no body and no autopsy report and investigators merely relied on the findings of their Taiwanese counterpart.
“The court junked the motion to quash of the accused because the court failed to see a defect on the resolution indicting them for homicide and there is no grave defect on the resolution,” Navera said.
The six who pleaded not guilty during their arraignment before the sala of Batanes RTC Branch 13 Judge Ramon Barona were Seamen 1stClass Mhelvin Aguilar Bendo II, Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo, Sunny Galang Masangkay and Henry Baco, SN2 Nickey Reynold Aurellio and PO2 Richard Fernandez Corpus.
Only SN1 Edrando Quiapo Aguila was not arraigned since he has to attend a funeral of a relative in Metro Manila.
Navera said the court set his arraignment on November 24 which also coincides with the pre-trial of the case of his co-accused.
Their commanding officer, Arnold Enrique dela Cruz who was also charged in the case, pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned last July.
Aside from finding no defects in the resolution indicting them, Navera said the court also took notice of the documents they have presented to counter the motion to quash.
“We were able to present the autopsy report and death certificate of the victim which the court took cognizant of in dismissing the motion to quash,” he said.
The DOJ earlier asked the court to proceed with the arraignment adding that the issues raised by the accused should be threshed in a full-blown trial.
The DOJ also debunked the claim of the defense that the resolution rendered last December 2013 by the panel of prosecutors headed by Navera failed to present evidence showing that the crime took place nor that the victim is indeed dead.
“The Resolution dated 20 December 2013 is pretty straightforward. It did not state that it has no proof of Hong’s death. It merely stated that the original death certificate were still with the Taiwanese authorities during the preliminary investigation last year. More importantly, the Resolution, did not state that the only proof of Hong’s death is the death certificate. For the information of counsel of the accused, as of this writing, the autopsy reports (in Chinese and English) with post-mortem photographs and the death certificate (in Chinese and English) on Hong are now with the prosecution and ready to be marked for preliminary conference and preliminary trial,” the DOJ said.
It added “that these documents and photographs, which can be examined by the accused’ counsel, should now put to rest their rehashed arguments.”
It will be recalled that in its resolution, Navera’s panel junked the claim of the accused that they were forced to fire at the Taiwanese fishing vessel after it tried to ram the maritime control and surveillance ship of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The panel also said they found no evidence to indicate or to prove that the Taiwanese fishing vessel posed an imminent or grave danger to the accused before and during the pursuit.
The DOJ panel also said their claim of self-defense should be better left threshed out in the trial court, during a full-blown hearing.
As to the claim of fulfillment of lawful duty, the DOJ held that being a hostile vessel per se does not authorize the use of deadly force under the PCG Rules of Engagement.
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