MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the filing of homicide charges against 8 Philippine Coast Guard (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 respondents all acted in unison with the common purpose of firing" at shipping vessel Guang Da Xing No. 28 to "force it to submit" to the inspection of the PCG.
"Conspiracy was established by the NBI when it presented the fact that order 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 79-page resolution read.
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.
"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."
"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," the resolution read.
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 resolution was signed by investigating fiscals Assistant State Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Alexander Suarez, and Josie Christina Dugay, and approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.