EIGHT Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officers are facing homicide charges for the death last year of a Taiwanese fisherman in Balintang Channel.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), through the National Prosecution Service (NPS), recommended the filing of homicide charges against Commanding Officer Arnold de la Cruz, Seaman First Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo 2nd, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sunny Masangcay, SN1 Henry Solomon, Seaman Second Class (SN2) Nicky Renold Aurello, and Petty Officer 2 Fernandez Corpuz.
They were found liable for the death of 65-year-old Hong Shi Cheng.
Besides homicide charges, de la Cruz and Bendo are also facing charges for obstruction of justice for submitting a falsified Gunner Report two days after the incident.
In its 74-page resolution, the DOJ held that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was able to establish conspiracy among the respondents.
Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Alexander Suarez and Josie Christina Dugay signed the resolution. It was approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
According to the DOJ, the respondents “acted in unison with the common purpose of firing” at shipping vessel Guang Da Xing 28 to “force it to submit” to the inspection of the PCG.
“Conspiracy was established by the NBI when it presented the fact that orders were given and the orders were obeyed and efficiently implemented with fatal consequences. That they all acted with that common purpose is crystal clear. When there is conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all,” the department said.
According to the findings, there was no evidence to indicate or prove that the Taiwanese boat posed an imminent or grave danger to the PCG personnel before and during the pursuit of the Taiwanese vessel.
“This crushed the respondents’ argument of self-defense,” the DOJ held.
“Absent clear evidence of such [imminent or grave danger], the argument of self-defense cannot prosper in this preliminary investigation where probable cause is all that is needed for the filing of information in court,” it stated.
“The argument of self-defense is, thus, better left threshed out in the trial and determined by the trial court after a full-blown hearing,” it added.
The incident in the Balintang Channel off Batanes led to the souring of relations between Taiwan and Manila.
The PCG personnel claimed that they acted in self-defense, but Taiwan said unnecessary force was used in the attack of the vessel, which was carrying three Taiwanese and an Indonesian crew.
Taiwan had demanded that the Philippine government issue an apology, pay compensation to the family of the victim and file charges against the personnel involved in the shooting.