Fate of Coast Guard men now in Aquino’s hands

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THE decision on whether to file charges against personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who were involved in the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman last May solely lies in the hands of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who is now reviewing the report submitted by investigators on the incident.

Aquino, said Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte, has already received the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the May 9 fatal shooting of Hung Shih-cheng in Balintang Channel off Batanes province.

But Valte, speaking during a press briefing on Friday, refused to disclose the contents of the report, saying it was for the President’s eyes only.

The report, which was submitted by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, will be released to the public after Aquino makes a decision on the recommendations of the NBI, Valte said.

”We can confirm that the report has been submitted by the Secretary of Justice, who I believe is on her way home from official business. But we have not received word on anything about the report,” she said.

”I understand that the report is for the President’s eyes only. We’ve not seen the recommendations, we are not aware at this point of what the charges are,” she added.

Confirmed
The Justice Secretary earlier confirmed that criminal and administrative charges have been recommended by the NBI against the Coast Guard personnel.

Valte, however, said that the Palace will defer any comment on the recommendation for the time being until such time that the President gives his instructions.

Asked if that would possibly affect the morale of the law enforcement agency, such as the Coast Guard, Valte said,”We don’t know that yet. First, it would be hypothetical to say that the contents of that report would have an adverse affect on the morale of the Coast Guard.”

”We don’t want to comment on that yet until such time that we’ve seen the charges and that we’ve received instructions from the President,” she pointed out.

Last month, eight NBI agents flew to Taiwan to conduct their probe on the incident. The team inspected the fishing vessel of the victim and interviewed his companions when the shooting happened.

The NBI also interviewed the medico-legal expert that autopsied the victim. The team was also allowed to view the video of the autopsy.

A seven-man Taiwanese team also went to the Philippines for a four-day parallel investigation,

The fatal shooting of the 65-year-old fisherman had caused a rift between the Philippines and Taiwan. Both insisted that the incident happened within their respective territories.

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