• 8 Coast Guard personnel face homicide charges

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    NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas holds a copy of the bureau’s report and recommendation during a media briefing on Wednesday. The NBI recommended the filing of homicide charges against several Coast Guard personnel for killing a Taiwanese fisherman in Balintang Strait. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recommended the filing of homicide charges against eight members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who were involved in the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel on May 9.

    “These eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel were the ones who have admitted to have fired their firearms,” NBI chief Nonnatus Roxas said.

    He said the criminal complaint will be filed before the state prosecutor’s office.

    In its report to the Department of Justice, the bureau recommended homicide charges against Coast Guard Commanding Officer Arnold dela Cruz and seven other personnel who fired their guns at two Taiwanese fishing vessels, killing Taiwanese Hong Shi-Cheng.

    The NBI said that the use of deadly force against the fishing vessels cannot be justified because while Dela Cruz validly considered the Taiwanese fishing vessel hostile when it intruded into Philippine waters, the use of deadly fire was unwarranted.

    Asked why the bureau recommended homicide charges and not murder, Rojas said the probers found no qualifying circumstance for murder because the incident was unplanned and unpremeditated.

    The report also said there was no abuse of superior strength because the force employed was only to stop the vessel, and no treachery was involved because the use of firearms was not sudden and unexpected.

    The seven Coast Guardsmen who will face homicide raps are SN1 Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo, SN1 Andy Golfo, SN1 Sunny Magsangcay, SN1 Henry Solomon, PO2 Richard Corpuz and SN2 Nicky Aurello.

    Aside from homicide, Dela Cruz and three others also face charges of obstruction of justice for splicing the footage of the incident captured on video by one of the personnel.

    Ramirez said he was instructed by the Coast Guard Executive Officer LTJG Martin Bernabe to edit portions of the footage which showed the crew firing at the Taiwanese boat.

    Bendo was found to have falsified the monthly gunnery report documenting the amount of bullets that were used by the crew during the shooting incident.

    Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it would push for the lifting of sanctions against the Philippines after Manila recommended the filing of homicide charges against the Coast Guard personnel.

    Calling Manila’s move a “constructive response”, the ministry said it would recommend the Taipei government improve relations, including lifting sanctions imposed after the shooting of the fisherman.

    In a separate move, Taiwanese prosecutors on Wednesday charged eight Filipino Coast Guard personnel with homicide. The indictment was considered symbolic as it is unlikely that the Philippines will allow the accused to be tried in Taiwan due to the lack of formal diplomatic ties.

    WITH A REPORT FROM AFP

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