THERE’S no reason for President Benigno Aquino 3rd to take so much time reviewing the NBI report on the shooting to death by Philippine Coast Guard people of a Taiwan Chinese fisherman on May 9.
The incident has caused great grief not just to the Taiwan people, particularly the relatives and friends of the killed fisherman. That grief has triggered anger against Filipinos—especially those who are already in Taiwan.
It has also damaged what used to be warm relations between Filipinos and Taiwan Chinese and Taiwanese themselves. (Taiwanese are people native to China’s Taiwan province, which is the seat of the Republic of China (ROC). ROC used to be the name of the whole of China until the Communist Party and its armies took over the mainland and drove the Kuomintang Party and the Republic of China to Taiwan. Some of the indigenous Taiwanese are racially related to our ancestors.)
The worst practical consequence of the Philippine Coast Guard personnel’s killing of the Taiwanese fisherman is on Overseas Filipino Workers. Some 16,000 of our OFWs have lost their jobs in Taiwan. The Taiwan government ordered a freeze on the hiring of OFWs and on the renewal of 10,000 OFW employment contracts.
It’s a serious matter for the Philippine economy for 16,000 well-paid OFWs to be added to the millions of jobless Filipinos.
There are about 90,000 OFWs in Taiwan. Most personal and corporate employers of these Pinoys are happy with them. But with the government’s freeze order, each of these Filipinos would also become jobless when their contracts expire.
Officially, Taiwan is waiting for the Philippine government to formally apologize for the killing of the fisherman. It doesn’t look like the President is willing to give that apology.
Maybe he wants to show the people of the uniformed services that he is loyal to them.
But he can and must do things to make the Taiwan people and government feel a bit better. One of these things is to release the NBI report of its findings.
NBI wants the PCG shooters charged
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last June told reporters that the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) had recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard who shot and killed the Taiwanese fisherman.
Both Taiwan government and NBI investigators have done thorough probes into the tragedy. The Taiwan side has publicized their findings that apart from drilling the Taiwan fishing boat with scores of high-powered bullets—some of which killed the Taiwanese victim—the Pinoy Coast Guard men were laughing and enjoying themselves like cruel children or barbaric hoodlums. At first the PCG claimed that its men had fired to defend themselves from the fishing boat because it was going to ram the Coast Guard vessel. The PCG has become silent about that when it was shown that the fishing boat was a puny thing compared to the iron ship of the armed killers.
Secretary De Lima has confirmed that she submitted the NBI investigation report and recommendation to charge the PCG men to the President.
Secretary De Lima also disclosed last June that Taiwan and Philippine representatives held closed-door meetings during which both sides objectively evaluated the evidence and arrived at similar conclusions as to the guilt of the Coast Guard men. The Taiwan side, however, went further than the Philippine side, saying to the public in Taiwan that the PCG men had the “intent to murder.”
Perhaps what makes President Aquino hesitate to make the NBI report public is his knowledge that the Taiwan side will publicly react negatively to it. So what’s the use?
Indeed, the Taiwan rulers must gain political points domestically by always sounding angry about the tragic incident.
We think releasing the report, accompanied by some well-chosen soothing words, will help a great deal in easing our diplomatic difficulties with Taiwan, whose leaders know in their hearts of hearts that they should not lose the friendship of the Filipinos.