MANILA – The Republic of China (Taiwan) on Tuesday lauded the Philippine government's decision to file charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman last year.
"The ROC government commends the special panel’s resolution, announced March 18, as a victory for justice," the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement.
"MOFA applauds the Philippine judiciary for its fair ruling, as well as its determination to punish the perpetrators according to the facts and evidence of the crime. While the ROC government’s four demands have now been met, the ministry will continue to monitor the judicial proceedings in the case."
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier recommended the filing of homicide charges against 8 PCG officers in connection with the May 9, 2013 shooting of a Taiwanese shipping vessel in the Balintang Channel off Batanes which led to the death of 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman Hong Shi-cheng.
Recommended charged are Commanding Officer Arnold Dela Cruz, Seaman 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sunny Masangcay, SN1 Henry Solomon, Seaman 2nd Class (SN2) Nicky Renold Aurello, and Petty Officer 2 Fernandez Corpuz.
Dela Cruz and Bendo were also recommended charged with obstruction of justice for the preparation and submission of a falsified Gunner Report two days after the shooting incident.
The DOJ, through its National Prosecution Service (NPS), in finding probable cause against respondents for the crime of homicide, pointed out that complainant National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was able to establish conspiracy.
The DOJ said it found "no evidence to indicate or prove that the Taiwanese boat posed an imminent or grave danger to the respondent before and during the pursuit."
This crushed the respondents' argument of self-defense, the DOJ ruled.
The DOJ, however, stressed that the ruling should not in any way be construed as a blank card for Taiwanese fishermen to illegally enter and poach within Philippine territorial waters, and should not weaken the PCG's resolve "to carry on an strictly enforce Philippine criminal laws within Philippine territory in accordance with established rules of engagement."
The shooting incident soured relations between the Philippines and Taiwan last year.
The Taiwanese government then demanded from the Philippines a formal apology, compensation, an expeditious investigation followed by prosecution of the perpetrators, and speedy arrangement of negotiations on fishery matters.
The Taiwanese government said it will continue to strengthen bilateral relations and promote fisheries cooperation with the Philippines.