8 Coast Guard personnel found guilty in death of Taiwanese fisherman
MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 has found eight members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) guilty in the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hong Shi Cheng off Batanes in 2013.
Found guilty were Commanding Officer Arnold Dela Cruz, Seaman 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sunny Masangkay, SN1 Henry Solomon, PO2 Richard Corpuz and Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Reynold Aurelio.
The prosecution presented a total of 13 witnesses, including Hong Yu Tzu, one of the crew members of the Taiwanese fishing vessel and son of the victim.
Other witnesses presented by the prosecution were Lee Jing Wei, Deputy Director of the Forensic Science Division of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of Taiwan, Hiyasmin G. Abarientos, a ballistician from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), four other experts from the NBI and a ballistic expert from Taiwan.
NBI ballistic exam and comparison with the firearms and slugs recovered from the fishing vessel showed that the bullets were fired from three of the 15 firearms recovered–a Springfield M14 rifle, a caliber 7.62 rifle and a Browning .30 caliber machine gun.
The Court said the evidence presented showed all the accused’ “participation and collective responsibility on the death of the victim…The concerted acts of the accused manifested their agreement to kill Hong Shi Cheng, resulting in each of them being guilty of the crime regardless of whether he actually fired at the victim or not,” Manila RTC Branch 15 Presiding Judge Eduardo Ramon R. Reyes said in his decision.
“They reveal a unity of purpose and concerted action evidencing their conspiracy to kill…After sifting through the evidence presented, the Court is convinced that the prosecution has been able to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide,” Reyes added.
They were meted the penalty of up to 14 years of imprisonment.
The accused were also ordered to pay jointly and severally the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and 50,000 as moral damages.
But the Court has allowed the eight men to remain in liberty pending appeal of their case.
Atty. Rodrigo Moreno, counsel for six of the eight accused said “the Court was gracious enough” to grant their request that the accused remain out on bail.
The incident strained the relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines.
As a result of the incident, the Taiwanese government has stopped the issuance of visas to Filipinos workers seeking jobs in Taiwan.
The Philippines sent a representative and delivered the government’s official letter of apology to soothe the strained relations.
The PCG in 2013 said its personnel acted in self-defense when it opened fire at Taiwanese fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 in the Balintang Channel off Batanes.
The vessel, then carrying three Taiwanese and an Indonesian, allegedly tried to ram the PCG patrol boat.
The Taiwanese camp, however, claimed that their ship “came under attack” and that Philippine officers opened fire without any warning. /gsg
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