Manila Court wraps up case vs PCG men for death of Taiwanese fisherman
MANILA, Philippines — The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 has wrapped up the trial of eight Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) members accused of killing a Taiwanese fisherman off the waters of Batanes in 2013.
During Friday’s hearing, lawyers for the accused has rested its case with the adoption of documentary evidence presented by the prosecution.
The counsel for six of the accused said they are adopting the prosecution’s document referring to the firearms examination report conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on 13 rifles and one Browning machine gun submitted by the accused Coast Guard personnel.
Accused of the death of fisherman Hong Shi Cheng were Commanding Officer Arnold Dela Cruz, Seaman 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sonny Masangcay, SN1 Henry Solomon, SN1 Richard Corpuz, and Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Renold Aurelio.
“The offer of the defense is the same as the purpose for which these exhibits were offered by the prosecution,” Senior State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said. He then asked the defense if they will have a “precise offer of evidence,” but they responded in the negative.
The prosecution has presented a total of 13 witnesses, including Hong Yu Tzu, one of the crew members of the fishing vessel “Guang Ta Hsin 28” and a son of the victim, 65-year-old Hong Shih-Cheng.
Other witnesses presented by the prosecution include 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.
The NBI ballistic examination of 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, caliber 7.62 rifle, and a Browning .30 caliber machine gun.
Both parties will submit their memorandum after 10 days. The court set the promulgation for Sept. 18.
The case was initially heard by the Batanes RTC Branch 13 but the Supreme Court ordered the transfer of the trial venue after the accused successfully argued that if the trial is done in Batanes, it would be burdensome, not only for them but also to the prosecution, considering the distance from Manila to the northernmost province of the country.
The respondents who were out on bail all pleaded not guilty during their arraignment as they claimed they were only forced to fire at the Taiwanese fishing vessel in self-defense after it tried to ram the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) ship and refused to stop for boarding inspection despite repeated warnings.
The accused PCG officers also claimed that the Taiwanese were poaching in the country’s territorial waters at the time of the incident and were trying to flee when accosted by the BFAR patrol ship.
The incident has put a strain in the relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines. Taiwan has stopped the issuance of visas to Filipinos who want to work in the country and placed at risk 80,000 Filipinos already working in Taiwan.
The government then sent a representative to Taiwan to deliver the government’s official letter of apology to repair the strained relations. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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