MANILA - Taiwan investigators on Saturday belied initial claims by the Philippine government that the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in waters off Batanes last week was unintentional.
According to a report by China Central Television (CCTV), based on forensic examination by Taiwanese authorities, bullet holes were mainly found in the cabin where the fishermen hid, so it holds the Philippine Coast Guard shot intentionally.
Taiwan investigators found that 45 bullets punctured the Guang Da Xing vessel, all of them from high-powered firearms.
"The criminal investigators concluded that the ammunitions used were 7.62mm caliber shots, most likely coming from M14 rifle, M240 or M60 machine guns," said Chen Wen-Chi, director for Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs of Taiwan's Ministry of Justice.
"No matter from the body injuries, or the boat damage, or the sailing distance from other boats as well as behaviors of their public service vessels, we concluded that they had homicide intention after we made comprehensive analysis," Chen said.
Taiwanese probers also said Philippine law enforcers did not follow the procedures of warning, dispelling, boarding and detaining illegal sea crafts, thus ignoring international laws.
Their forensic investigation also contradicted the claims by the Philippine Coast Guard that the fishing vessel attempted to ram the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
"In addition, bullet remnants were not found on the surface of Guang Da Xing 28, thus omitting the possibility that Guang Da Xing 28 was trying to ram the Philippine law enforcement vessel," said Chen.
Taiwanese authorities reiterated their call for a joint investigation between them and the Philippine authorities.
But Secretary Leila De Lima said that a joint investigation is not possible. On the Department of Justice’s Twitter account, De Lima assured the Taiwanese government of a fair and thorough investigation.
TAIWANESE PROBERS BACK IN TAIPEI
The Taiwanese investigators returned to Taipei on Saturday after being denied to hold a joint investigation with the Philippines over the fatal shooting of a fisherman Mr. Hung Shi-chen.
Last week, based on initial reports, the Philippine government had described as an “aggressive act” the attempt of the Taiwanese vessel to ram into a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel that prompted Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel to fire at the vessel seen near Batanes.
“It was an aggressive act. The ramming of the boat into our vessel was certainly an aggressive act. So the PCG responded accordingly. Nag-warning shot sila, hindi po tumigil. They took the other necessary action and I understand eventually disengaged after that. So let’s see kung ano pa ho ang mailalabas ng investigation ng PCG,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said last May 10.
The initial Coast Guard report also said that PCG personnel had tried to board the Taiwanese vessels after detecting them “in archipelagic waters.”
The PCG also claimed it fired a warning shot when one of the foreign vessels was about to ram the BFAR vessel.
“Meron silang nadetect na apat na foreign fishing vessels in archipelagic waters. In an effort to apprehend or magbo-board po sila… Nung sinusubukan pong to board… one of the vessels, ni-ram po nung isa ang ating, the BFAR vessel which is being manned by the Coast Guard. So nag-fire po ng warning shot, hindi pa din daw po tumigil ‘yung mga vessels in an attempt to continuously ram the BFAR vessel. Nag-fire daw po sila ng isa pang shot doon sa machinery portion ng ship,” Valte said.
SANCTIONS, OFWs AFFECTED
On Wednesday (May 15), Taipei imposed several sanctions to Manila after rejecting its apology and recalled its envoy to the Philippines. The sanctions included freezing of applications for work permits, stopping economic exchanges and carrying out military exercises in waters between the two sides.
An investigation team from Taiwan arrived in Manila on Thursday (May 16) hoping to have a joint investigation, but the Philippines declined the offer and said they did not receive any formal request.
Chen said they informed the relevant Philippine authorities of their intent prior to arriving in Manila and showed a document signed by the Manila Economic and Cultural Office.
"Their initiative to come to the Philippines is based on sincerity and consent expressed by the Philippine government in conducting a joint probe prior to the investigation team's arrival. However, the Philippine government has tried to prolong and delay our requests for a joint investigation," she said.
"Although we made some progress yesterday, we still feel discontent on the lack of sincerity and credibility expressed by the Philippine side in cooperating with our team. For this very reason, all the members of the Taiwan investigation team has decided to go back to Taiwan immediately. We hope that the Philippine government understands that there is only one truth; and that the way to show sincerity is by proposing concrete and feasible proposals for bilateral cooperation which will pave way for the clarification of truth. In this way, we will be able to determine the proper compensation to the victim's family and carry out the appropriate punishments to the perpetrators," she said.
Chen also read a statement by Taiwan Minister David Lin reiterating Manila's lack of sincerity with their apology, but assured the Philippines that they will not involve the more than 85,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.
Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier appealed to Taiwan not to take out its anger on the Filipinos working in Taiwan, many as domestic workers, following local media reports of harassment.
The row is the latest flare-up in Asian seas where disputes in various places between various countries have raised fears of conflict in the economically vibrant region where competition for resources is intensifying.
The Philippines and Taiwan, as well as China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, are embroiled in disputes over territory in the nearby South China Sea, potentially rich in oil and gas and criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes. -- with a report from ANC; Reuters